Blogging About Blogging, vol. 40

We’re not in any way opposed to meta coverage here at ALDLAND. Blogging about blogging is basically our bread and butter. (We also cover blogging about blogging about bloggingblogging about writingblogging about writing about writingwriting about blogging, and writing about writing.) That’s why I’m glad to accept, on ALDLAND’s behalf, a Liebster Award nomination from the good folks at Musings of a Displaced Tigers Fan. Another, actual reason is that I have been a fan of their work since I first found their site last year. It’s the perfect online place for fans of the Detroit Tigers who find themselves living somewhere outside the reach of the Tigers Radio Network. This season, they’ve upped their game by increasing the volume and breadth of their Tigers coverage, and through a very impressive visual overhaul of their site.

The idea behind this nomination concept is to draw attention to strong web content that doesn’t currently draw a lot of attention, and it’s pretty cool that these DTF guys thought enough of our site to loop us into the game. Part of the drill is answering some questions they sent along. Here goes:      Continue reading


Topsy Monday

As noted, last Saturday’s college football games featured a number of games between top-ranked teams. As discussed in this space before, every game generally is going to end with one team on the winning side and one team on the losing side, games being athletic events between two teams. This means that a bunch of ranked teams lost this week, and boy did they.

Keep reading…

ALDLAND takes you live to the start* of SEC conference play

Although conference play technically began when South Carolina survived against SEC East foe Vanderbilt in the first game of the college football season, conference play ramps up in earnest this week, when the Commodores, and yours truly, head to Athens for a night game between the hedges against #5 Georgia.

As indicated in the photograph, these divisional opponents have some history. When they played in the above-depicted game, nearly fifty-six years to the day prior to Saturday night’s meeting, Vanderbilt scored a 14-0 victory at home. Unsurprisingly, that outcome does not predominate; in a series that began in 1893 (with a 35-10 Commodore win, incidentally), the Dawgs have a 53-18-2 record. The series was far more competitive through the early 1960s, but Vanderbilt has only four wins (and one tie) against UGA since the 1961 season.

These two teams have some recent notable history, too. ALDLAND was there, in duplicate, for their last meeting, in which Georgia survived a late special teams error to escape Nashville with a win. It was what happened after the game that most people will remember, though Continue reading

ALDLAND takes you live to the Brain Bowl, Evanston IL

Since Brendan wanted to neither preview nor review the Michigan/Alabama game he attended last weekend, this weekend’s Vanderbilt/Northwestern matchup will be ALDLAND’s first live-covered football game of the season. I, along with CFB preview podcast guest Marcus and VSL‘s Bobby O’Shea, will be in Evanston this weekend for the meeting of these two institutionally similar teams.

In the abstract, both teams represent the smallest and only private schools in two of the nation’s biggest conferences. As the modified graphic above indicates, this isn’t the first time the Commodores and Wildcats have met to play FOOTBALL. Some light googling indicates that these two schools have met three times, and each has a 1-1-1 record against the other. This season, both teams have a record that, at least vis-a-vis this weekend’s game, probably is misleading. Vanderbilt is 0-1 after a close loss to a top-ten, in-conference opponent in a game they at least could have won. Northwestern is 1-0 on the strength of a 42-41 shootout win over one-time-sort-of-powerhouse-ish Syracuse. I’m not saying they should’ve lost to the Orange, but I am saying that their surrender of 41 points and the final possession to CNY’s favoritest tells me more than them posting 42 on a Big East defense, to say nothing of the margin of victory. (And their otherwise feisty supporters seem to agree.)

On Wednesday, Vanderbilt was a 3.5-point favorite on the road, and the line hasn’t moved since. Given the high hopes in Commodore Country James Franklin has built since his arrival before last season and the sense around the Midwest that Northwestern, while not a doormat, has plateaued, this feels a bit narrow. Still, NW will make a formidable host for the visitors, for whom this is an important game they absolutely should win on their way to higher heights back in the SEC. As O’Shea writes in his preview this week, a win in the Chicago suburbs would be a strong statement to the Black & Gold’s national recruiting base as well.

As with last year, find us on Twitter during the game, and come back here for a recap afterwards.


B1G Roadtrippin’: Michigan at Northwestern

College football preview: The season starts in Nashville

College football starts tonight, when Vanderbilt hosts South Carolina in the first game of the season. With the national spotlight on Nashville, I’ve decided I’m allowed to make this preview collection extremely Commodore-heavy.

There are a number of reasons this game is a great season opener. First, it pits two division rivals against each other. In an era in which teams don’t play non-cupcakes until October to boost their BCS rankings, the value of an in-conference, in-division game to lead off opening day cannot be overstated. Second, that conference just happens to be the Southeastern Conference, the top one in the country. Third, these teams actually are somewhat competitive with each other, at least recently. While the overall series isn’t pretty for the black & gold, the Gamecocks are just 3-2 over the last five meetings, and one of those losses came in Columbia. Fourth, SC coach Steve Spurrier has a history of Vanderbilt hatred, which is showing no signs of cooling off. Fifth, the game should be an excellent showcase for the run game, with the visitors’ Heisman candidate competing against the home team’s RB corps, which is top in the conference. Sixth, SC is ranked #9 in the preseason rankings, which is a high ranking.

I’m on record predicting a Vandy win, but did you really expect anything else? Other games of note this weekend include Boise State at Michigan State on Friday and Alabama and Michigan playing in Dallas on Saturday.

The rest of this 2012 college football preview goes like this:

I realize this is likely the least useful preview aggregation I’ve put forth to date, but our sponsorship agreement with Gongshow Hockey hasn’t come through yet, and the site just doesn’t pay like it used to. Also and far more importantly, this week’s podcast took a very thorough look at the national college football scene, so listen to that on your way home from work, and if you’ve got other links that belong in the collection above, let me know, and I’d be happy to add them.

Enjoy the games!

Beale Street recap: Vandy falls to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl, 31-24

After the Red Wings fell 3-2 to the Blackhawks at the United Center, I boarded a plane from Chicago early the next morning, and touched down in the land of the Delta blues, in the middle of the pouring sunshine. It was a beautiful New Year’s Eve day in Memphis, especially by my recently recalibrated Northern standards, and I’m not sure anyone could reasonably protest the prospect of tailgating outdoors in 60 degrees and sun on December 31st. Whenever I go to Memphis, I’m always (I write this as if I go there so often) struck by the lowness of the terrain. It isn’t just flat, it’s low. (Or maybe it was the lowrider dunebuggy of a rental car we had. It’s a tossup really.)

Hearing no reasonable or unreasonable protest, tailgate we did, the site graciously hosted and organized by the VSL Braintrust. After gorging ourselves on food, drink, and conversation, we made our way into the Liberty Bowl, which presents as large and grand but operates as small and comfortable. There’s an imposing fortress-like structure at the main entrance that would be impressively and confusingly lit at the end of the game, the moat area being a concourse that certainly felt like it was in the stadium but operated as a sort of DMZ for people to finish their outside consumables and proceed into the technical, ticket-taking entryway.

Once inside, I found myself in the best seats I’ve ever had for a sporting event of consequence. It wasn’t a surprise– I knew where the seats were– but there was something pretty neat about saddling up in the second row, right behind the Vanderbilt bench and about turning around and seeing a sea of black and gold stretched from end to end of the Commodore side of the stadium.   Keep reading…

Tuesday morning special

We normally do this on Mondays, but with the breakdown of this fall’s orderly football schedule, together with adverse outcomes in the two games I attended over the weekend and the opportunity to post the song below, I figured it was ok to wait until Tuesday this time.

On Friday, the Red Wings lost by a goal on the road to Chicago, and on Saturday, Vanderbilt lost by a touchdown to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl. Recaps of both of those games will come later.

There wasn’t much of special note in the NFL’s final week of regular season play on Sunday, except that Steelers’ RB Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL and is done for the season, a literally crippling blow to Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl chances, especially considering Ben Roethlisberger’s lingering leg injury.

The traditional New Year’s Day bowls were played on January 2 this year, and Michigan State came back to win a triple-overtime game against Georgia in the Outback Bowl, much to the chagrin of commodawg and bpbrady. By the second half, it appeared that nobody wanted to win the game. The officials insisted that there had to be a winner, though, and two missed field goals by Georgia, including one the Spartans blocked in the third overtime, sealed the game.

The BCS games played yesterday were exciting as well. Oregon topped Wisconsin for the Ducks’ first Rose Bowl victory in over ninety years, and Oklahoma State beat Stanford in overtime for all the Tostitos in the Fiesta Bowl.

Tonight, the once-proud Sugar Bowl stakes its claim to irrelevancy when Michigan takes on Virginia Tech. Our bpbrady is there. Watch for him on tv, assuming he makes it into the stadium after a week in the French Quarter.

Liberty Bowl preview

After a couple weeks of silly bowl games and lamenting the defunctedness of the Baccardi Bowl, it’s come time to get into college football’s more serious postseason games. With the BCS bowls getting going on January 2 (there are no New Year’s Day bowls this year), New Year’s Eve provides a suitable appetizer, including Cincinnati and Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl, 2:30 pm Central time on ABC. Watch for me on the TV.

Rather than try to duplicate the good work already done by dedicated Vanderbilt bloggers and create my own full game preview, I’ll yield to more experienced voices below, after offering my own thoughts, in bullet-point format (it’s Memphis, after all):

  • While Vanderbilt was three plays away from a 9-3 record in the regular season, they finished 6-6, which still triples their win total from last year with essentially the same roster and bests their win total from the past two seasons combined. That said, a win on Saturday would give the Commodores a winning record on the season; a loss, of course, would give them a losing record. Coach James Franklin has hit this point in his preparation this week and I think it’s an important one. A season this good, comparatively speaking, cannot end with a losing record.
  • This is just the fifth bowl appearance for Vanderbilt, but this year’s senior class is the school’s first to play in two bowl games. At a school where nobody leaves early for the NFL (not even Jay Cutler), the seniors represent a strong, experienced group of leaders. They also have played for three different coaches (Bobby Johnson, Robbie Caldwell, and Franklin) in three years, so they have been through a lot together. After a win in the Music City Bowl three years ago, followed by two down years, the seniors seem to play for themselves as much as they do for Franklin and the future of the program. I think this bodes well for their performance in their final game.
  • As much as 2008’s Music City Bowl was a coming out party for quarterback Larry Smith, the 2011 season has been a coming out party for his replacement, Jordan Rodgers. The junior starter with a famous brother has been an offensive force this year, both as a rusher and a passer. Rodgers need not have a perfect total game for Vandy to win– other offensive options and tools are available– but he needs to avoid making the kinds of mistakes he did in the overtime loss to Tennessee.
  • Cincinnati is a relative unknown to me, and probably to you, something the information below should remedy. The two things that come to my mind are 1) they aren’t that far removed from Brian Kelly, so there probably is a talent residue there; and 2) their basketball team is made up of some hard brawlers, which may or may not carry over onto the football field. I just looked up their regular season record: 9-3. But they play in the Big East.
  • I’ve been to one other bowl game, the 2007 Rose Bowl. USC embarrassed Michigan that afternoon, and I was embarrassed to be associated with the state in which the losing team was located. I very much am hoping for a different result on Saturday.

History: Sensibly, the Liberty Bowl started in Philadelphia in 1959, but by 1965, it had moved to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis to host larger crowds and establish itself as one of the oldest non-BCS bowls. The People’s history of the Liberty Bowl is here.

Continue reading

Moonshine hangover: What happened at the end of Vandy/UT last night?

I found the ending to Vanderbilt’s overtime loss to Tennessee last night confusing, and not for the reason you might suspect; it really was confusing. The Vols won the overtime coin toss and elected to go on defense first. On that first possession, a Jordan Rodgers pass was caught, the receiver fumbled the ball, and a Tennessee defender scooped it up (note that it may have been a strip or an interception– the whole thing is a muddled mass of murkey malarkey) and ran it back for a touchdown, thereby ending the game. An official had whistled the play dead, however, because he believed the Vol defender’s knee was down when he recovered the fumble. Although Tennessee only would have needed to kick a field goal to win, Vandy was not given the opportunity to defend that kick attempt. The Commodores had blocked one earlier (negated by penalty), and their defense had been responsible for most of their points on the night. Despite ESPNU’s consistently undesirable camera angles throughout the broadcast, television replays unequivocally demonstrated that the defender’s knee never touched the ground, which makes this all the more confusing, because those TV replays also unequivocally demonstrated that the play nevertheless had been whistled dead. There was an official review of the play, and the head official stated the scope of the review as whether the play had been whistled dead, not whether the defender’s knee was down. Anybody watching knew that Vandy won the former review, but lost the latter. Except that they didn’t.

VSL‘s Bobby O’Shea did some good work on this late into the night last night. He first reported on the immediate reaction of the former head of officiating for the NFL, Mike Pereria:

The referee said there was “no signal” and “no whistle” and hence, the replay assistant allowed the touchdown. Here’s the problem…. There was a whistle and there was a signal. What you really have here is an inadvertant whistle and unfortunately, it appears … that the official who blew the whistle and pointed to the ground did not step up and admit his mistake. It’s clear on video.

About and hour later, he reported a statement from the SEC’s Coordinator of Officials, Steve Shaw:

On the last play of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee game, in overtime, the Tennessee defender intercepted the pass, his knee did not touch the ground and he returned the interception for a touchdown. During the play, the head linesman incorrectly ruled that the Tennessee player’s knee was down when he intercepted the pass by blowing his whistle and giving the dead ball signal. The play was reviewed as if there was no whistle on the field and as a result, overturned the incorrect ruling. By rule, if there was a whistle blown, the play is not reviewable.

But, no harm, no foul? O’Shea lodges many criticisms of the handling of this outcome, all of them valid, but if the right thing happened, does Vanderbilt really have a leg to stand on here? I think so, because, as someone else pointed out, whistles blowing a play dead affect the players playing on the field in the moment. I didn’t stick around long enough to see enough replays to know whether Vandy defenders let up and otherwise could have caught the UT defender who recovered the ball, but that isn’t the sort of secondary judgment call replay officials should be making, and it’s why the on-field official likely correctly stated the scope of review as whether whistles blew the play dead. If the play had been blown dead, even if erroneously, we don’t get to imagine what would have happened had that erroneous whistle not been blown, even if that’s what it looks like we got here. That’s why the rule, as Shaw stated, is that a play is not reviewable if the whistle was blown, as it plainly was in this case.

Big Ole weekend rundown: The rest

I don’t know why I keep making it sound like this Nebraska-Michigan game is the most massive tilt ever. It should be fun, but still. The game between these two new conference-mates needs a name, like the Corn Bowl, but it isn’t quite deserving of that just yet. Maybe the Toddler Bowl will work for now. (“My extra hatred for you is only semi-rational and based on the fact that, nearly fifteen years ago, we had to share something that I wanted all for myself because I hate sharing!”) This game will capture my attention because I will be there watching it, but in case you aren’t similarly piqued, here are three other things for you to keep track of this weekend:

  1. Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee: While Michigan and Ohio State no longer have their annual meeting this week, the ‘Dores and Vols are keeping steady on. What will be different this year when these two meet in Knoxville? For one thing, Vandy will be the favored team. Vegas is giving them a point on the road in the SEC, which is really something. UT is 0-6 in the conference, but they’ve cooked up hope of winning this one the only way they could: by pretending star QB Tyler Bray can make it back from a hand injury to play in this game. Vandy isn’t much better on paper– just 2-5 in the conference– but they were two missed plays from being 4-3, and they’ve done better than Tennessee against all common opponents. Vanderbilt must win in Knoxville this week or in Winston-Salem next week to be bowl eligible. The Vols, meanwhile, must win this game and their next one (against Kentucky) to be bowl-eligible and avoid a losing season. They also have to win this game to avoid being brought face-to-face with the undeniable recognition that they’re really bad. They’re going to lose, though, and everyone who’s been paying attention will be both glad and unsurprised. (For what the win can mean for the Commodores, read Bobby O’Shea’s post today at Vanderbilt Sports Line.) 7:00 pm, ESPNU
  2. Carolina vs. Detroit: The Cam Newton Roadshow rolls through the Motor City this weekend, and the Lions’ defenders are licking their chops, which is good, because the Lions’ offenders (that doesn’t quite work, does it?) are licking their wounds. With impressive statistical output that has failed to translate into wins, Newton has been a sort of inverse Tebow this season, and I don’t see this game as the one where the Panthers really put things together. On the other hand, Detroit has been looking less and less stable, successful, and inspiring the closer they get to their Thanksgiving Day meeting with the Packers. The Thanksgiving game is simultaneously a point of intense pride and an albatross for Detroit, and I’m worried that, as more cracks begin to show in their new-look image and play this year, doubt creeps in with the capability of reverting to the old, bag-on-the-head team we’re used to. Hanson kicks the Lions to an uncomfortable win in this one. 1:00 pm, FOX
  3. NASCAR Championship: It’s too tough to encapsulate an entire season (the longest in all of professional sports) into a quick hit here, but when this Sunday’s race at Homestead is over, NASCAR will have its first champion not named Jimmie Johnson in five years. Instead, it’s down to two drivers: Tony Stewart, who won the championship in 2002 and 2005– the last year before #48 went on his dominant streak– and Carl Edwards, the back-flipper who’s never won it all. Edwards holds an extremely narrow lead of only three points heading into this final race, which should make things very exciting. 3:00 pm, ESPN