Unless you have a Phil Steele shrine in your man cave -- votive candles, incense, 8x10 glossy of college football’s reigning guru, all nestled atop your Lamar-signed game-worn jersey -- you probably have no clue who Ed Marynowitz is.
OK, maybe you do . . . if you grab lunch regularly with the HVAC dudes in Roll Tide t-shirts and the plumbers in houndstooth ballcaps at the Popeyes on McFarland Road in Tuscaloosa. Even then that former administrator who has now moved on from his spot on the Crimson Tide football staff was never nearly as close to well known as, say, once beloved but now a hated rival Kirby Smart or don’t let the door hit you in the butt Lane Kiffin.
Obscure as Marynowitz duties as associate AD for football were, they inform why Nick Saban is a very very very very very good, great actually, and duh successful college football coach -- arguably the best ever -- and the mentor of your school, even if his name is Meyer or Fisher or Swinney or Patterson, is good and somewhat successful but a cut below.
Marynowitz’s duties were primarily to track other school’s assistant coaches and coordinators from across the land, gather info and develop dossiers so that Saban will be way ahead of the curve when it comes time to replace his own assistants who move on. Like this off season, when he had about a half dozen empty seats in the coaching staff meeting room.
So that kind of stuff is why the tsunami that is Roll Tide yet again is preseason #1. Plus there’s, oh, a roster full of 1st, 2d and 3d string ***** and the gumption and guile of Saban to insert a relatively untested freshman at QB for the second half of the BCS title game, while wise guys like me with a satisfied but ill-advised smirk are thinking, “What a panic move that is.”
Which is to accept that ‘Bama ain’t abdicating anything without a fight as long as the current regime’s in place. No matter who is calling signals. No matter how much unpaid restitution superduperüberfelonfan Harvey Updyke still hasn’t coughed up for poisoning the trees at Toomer’s Corner and the bad karma therefrom.
So, any discussion of the upcoming season, now only, what, nine or ten weeks hence, begins with the Crimson Tide, and whether you should order a whole or half rack at Dreamland, if that buddy in the next cubicle over at the office invites you along as promised when his uncle lets him use his Bama tickets to see the now perennial best team in the land against The Citadel in November?
U of L is, what, a four TD dog in the season opener against the Tide?
Welcome to the big time, Puma Pass.
I daresay this encounter shall not be a Cardinal fiesta. Bama’s the best until some interloper proves it not so.
But, yes, there are some legit contenders, along with a few delusional pretenders.
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(But, before I get to musing about them, here’s the Truth in Reportage Caveat: Most of the facts presented herein were gleaned from Phil Steele, Athlon and theathletic.com. Yes, I passed through Tuscaloosa back in the spring, but did not have an audience with The Nick nor even venture over to the shrine that is Bryant-Denny Stadium to pay my respects. For the silliness and folderol contained herein, I can blame nobody but myself.)
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So, who else is there?
No reason really to gaze above the Mason Dixon line. Dixie is where football is religion.
Well not really, you might object. You’d be mistaken.
Take Oxford Town, home of The Grove, for instance, also home to the Ole Miss Johnny Rebs. It’s a dry town on Sundays . . . except for the Sabbath of home football weekends. OK, Easter and Mother’s Day too. Such is the reverence for the Word of the Lord in the Southland.
So, you yet again got your denizens of Death Valley (South Carolina) under the tutelage of a Bama guy named Dabo, who is standing toe to toe with his alma mammy on the gridiron and recruiting trail. This year’s orange and purple menace features perhaps their best DL ever. NFL quality. Literally. Names are Ferrell, Lawrence, Wilkins and Bryant. With some fire spewing behemoths waiting to fill their spot should one tweak a knee.
Plus they got a guy on staff whose sole game time duties are to pull fiery DC Brent Venables off the field during game action to avoid penalties. That’s called taking care of the minutiae.
And there’s Georgia, because that Smart guy apparently learned his lessons well under The Nick. The Bulldogs coulda woulda shoulda against the Tide for the title, so they are anxious to make amends. Plus last year’s wunderkind QB Jake Fromm who got the job when the previous season’s frosh phenom Jacob Eason was hurt will be pushed by this year’s new kid in town, Justin Fields. To point out there’s depth to go with that bulldog slobber.
And there’s Miami, which like Clemson resides in the ACC, but is guided by another SEC expatriate, that Richt guy who used to wear polo shirts with Uga on the chest. The Canes have more than half the starters returning, and look to rebound from that end o’ season three game meltdown. Indeed, the ‘Canes have signal caller ambivalence themselves. Malik Rosier’s got three rookie hellhounds on his trail.
Yes, kids, they do play legit football elsewhere beyond the Land o’ Y’all. Especially the Great Midwest, where five schools are clamoring for attention. Pope Urban’s Buckeyes. The Wolverines, where Shea Patterson, formerly from the Land of Cotton, has been declared eligible to direct the action in the Big House. The Orange Bowl champ Badgers, who always seem to have some super rusher, but never much panache. Beleaguered Sparty, though there’s a pall of bad juju over East Lansing. And the Fiesta Bowl victorious Nittany Lions, the debilitating weight of whose child exploitation scandal transferred to Michigan State and doesn’t have to sit out a year.
In fact, top to bottom, the numerically challenged Big 10 is probably the best league in the land. (Plus those schools have flush athletic budgets, thanks to this year’s $51 million per payout from the conference office. Maybe Jim Harbaugh will spend some of that for a staff guy like Marynowitz of his own, instead of, say, schlepping his squad to the Seychelle Islands for spring practice.)
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You may have noticed that all these names being bandied are familiar.
I mean, is there a Central Florida or Utah in the crowd that could dazzle enough to seize Condoleezza Rice’s attention?
Do the rich ever get richer? Do the also rans as always miss a spot on the podium?
The truth? Yeah, probably so.
Central Florida didn’t falter last year. The Knights garnered lots of pub, had a way above the norm QB, McKenzie Milton, a transcendent linebacker who also had a great story in Shaquem Griffin and still got nary a sniff from the Selection Committee. They settled for a convincing post season W over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
It’s just hard to get to the top shelf with the Pappy Van Winkles of the college pigskin world.
Louisville, with the returning Heisman holder, found itself devoid of defense, and dropped five games. The Cards couldn’t see the Final Four with telescope.
So it goes. The margin for error is oh so very slim.
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So the question becomes, if not this season, will we see any new names in the future?
Maybe, but it ain’t gonna be some never heard of like East Dakota A & M.
Lots of eyes are on Nebraska, now under the direction of alum Scott Frost. And UCLA, to see if Chip Kelly can work the same magic upon his return to the college game as he did during his stint with the Quack?
During his first term at U of L, Bobby Petrino was universally regarded as “the next great offensive genius.” He might find his mojo . . . if Brian VanGorder improves the defense significantly . . . and Petrino doesn’t run him off to hire another relative. And Mike Summer’s OL continues to uptick.
Will Willie Taggert finally stay put long enough in Tallahassee to show he’s not all on the if come?
Will Washington see a return to the Huskies’ glory days?
Will West Virginia’s Mountaineers bounce back?
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So, am I going to give you anything of value about the season just over the horizon other than the usual time killing, not as funny or clever as I think it is shtick-infested tomfoolery?
Guru Phil has peered into his algorithms and tabbed Notre Dame as his Surprise Team for ‘18.
I can’t go there. Sorry, TD Jesus.
So, do I have a surprise for you, something to take away so you can close the tab here, and get back to work? After telling me what an idiot I am in the Comments section below.
Alabama will not win the BCS.
Too many new assistant coaches, as well-vetted as they might be. Too many question marks in the secondary. A Tagovailova vs. Hurts tension that might split the squad. Law of Averages, since the Tide’s played for the title after the last three seasons. Wishful thinking.
-- Seedy K