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The Alphabetical, Week 8: Insane football coaches and Southern tailgaters

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Will Muschamp could not be Will Muschamp in any other line of work, the mystery of what to think about Notre Dame may be solved on Saturday, and people from Connecticut should only talk about Connecticut things.


Adversity. Will Muschamp is overcoming the adversity. He is also yelling at a radio reporter about the referees like a coach seconds from being fired, and not at all like an undefeated SEC coach nearing the end of the month of October. Coaching is hard, and for evidence just look at the man.

If you saw anyone else in life--like, say, your average district manager--and saw them roaring away and approaching you in this condition, you would be legally justified in pulling the trigger and asking questions later. This man is screaming profanities, wearing ill-fitting clothing, and is talking to people he cannot see through his "headset."

Beggars. Without branding, most coaches are indistinguishable from homeless people, or at least dudes at the grocery store you're going to let slide with a cart full of groceries in the 10-items lane. And please remember: WIll Muschamp is winning football games right now and looks like that. Assume losing coaches spend their seasons wearing garbage bags and adult diapers, and sleep in their offices with their eyelids propped open with paper clips.


Q: What does one feel about Notre Dame?

A: One is conflicted. This is a team indistinguishable in profile from Florida: fierce defense, sluggish, run-first offense, and an undefeated record.

Q: Why does one feel such hesitation about saying Notre Dame is an excellent football team?

A: The usual reservations: their historic overvaluation over the past two decades, their suspect slate of Big Ten opponents thus far, and overcorrection needed to overcome the urge to say "Notre Dame is back" prematurely.

Q: Is such overcorrection necessary?

A: Unfortunately, yes. Saying Notre Dame is a national title contender is a disservice to a maturing team currently juggling a turnover machine (Tommy Rees) and a glittering but immature potential star (Everett Golson) at quarterback. It would also be a disservice to say that they are not a very good football team, since Manti Te'o and the Notre Dame defense are among the nation's elite. They deserve some cautious but realistic degree of praise.

Q: Is one comfortable with saying they are a Top 10 football team?

A: Certainly.

Q: Is this damning with faint praise?

A: Hell no. There are 124 teams in D-1 football. They're 90-plus in percentile right now, and excel in a way that frankly is more difficult by being a defensive team that also happens to field an offense.

Bill Connelly: Can MSU scare Alabama? || Bud Elliott: Georgia will challenge Florida || Eric Murtaugh: Previewing Notre Dame-Oklahoma

Differentiation. And, to continue the answer; the difference in Florida and Notre Dame is the degree of competition. The Big Ten is crap, utter and endless crap in all directions, for a lot of reasons the programs themselves might not be able to control. Stanford is punchless in a rebuilding year, Navy is miserable, and the Hurricanes are a shallow pan of football talent Al Golden is trying to stretch across a very wide cookie sheet of competition. Their best total win has to be soldered together with two wins: their defensive effort against Michigan combined with the second half effort against BYU.

Exceptionalism (SEC edition). And in a sport where the primary organization unit is the conference, this is where Notre Dame loses. Stuck without a conference for instant framing, you have to piece together their record from a mongrel resume of Big Ten teams, historical rivalries, and whatever else gets jammed into their schedule. This is way easier to do with, say, Florida, an SEC team that can plausibly point to its resume and claim it's thriving in a league that has produced six BCS title holders in a row. (Note: easier, and not necessarily fairer, than what Notre Dame has to do.)

Fred Jones Museum of Art. This points to Oklahoma, a "someone else" crammed into ND's schedule who happens to have a museum named this exact thing on their campus. If Notre Dame wants a legitimate claim at a title shot, then they have to slam Bob Stoops into a brick wall and then run the ambulance called to the scene into that same brick wall. This is not something Notre Dame is even remotely capable of doing offensively, who will face the first team this season capable of exploiting the one weakness the Irish defense might have: its secondary.

Guhhhh. The following is addressing an article written on the World Wide Web by one Mersene Norbom. It is entitled "The Backyard Family Tailgater – Throw a true Southern Tailgater for the Whole Family." It is about none of this, and should be destroyed with a mortar like a true enemy of the state.

Hartford. Ms. Norbom--if that is her real name, and it cannot be because Mersene Norbom is not a real name--is from Connecticut, and thus instantly disqualified from ever writing an article on a "Southern tailgater." As a fair and equal admission of regional specialty, I will recuse myself from ever writing about "having money" or "wearing things that have been ironed."

Inaccuracies. The tailgater should start at 3:00 p.m., per Miss Norbom. This is inaccurate. A tailgate should start in the morning regardless of the game's start time. If it's a 7 o'clock kick in the evening, you're just going to have to plan three meals on the day, and make sure the generators and those operating them have enough fuel. The point is to devote the entire day to drinking under a tent and to not let your focus sway from this central point. This is so disappointing, since if there's one thing we thought uber-Waspy Connecticut ladies would understand, it would be "activities orchestrated to excuse prolonged drinking."

Just further inaccuracies and shamefrolics. Oh, and this:

The first rule: everyone must be outside and participate in something.

Half-right may have been good enough for private school--no one pays that much money to get Ds, ma'am--but as a Southern non-apologist I feel comfortable saying this: no one here is required to do anything, ever. An SEC tailgate is the opposite of organization and quiet contractual obligation. RVs are parked on rare sea turtle breeding grounds. Fires happen. A game can be set out, but Uncle Phibas will be damned if he's going to get up to play it, because he fought in the Cola Wars of the 1980s and no man who ever served his country is ever required to do stupid shit like that ever again.

Knowledge: Uncle Phibas is just some dude who showed up and started eating your food. You would say something about it, but he has a pretty thick neck, and you're not quite drunk enough to ignore this fact and fight him anyway.

Littering. Openly condoned as a tailgate decoration here.

For pregame snacking, set a buffet table outside and decorate with fall colors: a brown table cloth, freshly fallen leaves scattered about, pine cones, and twigs.

No one's eating salad here, ma'am, unless you mean potato salad. Now, it is a matter of some controversy as to whether anyone has ever eaten potato salad, much less eaten it at a tailgate. It is perfectly obvious to all, however, that no one is going to appreciate you a.) throwing leaves all over the table, or b.) trying to get people to eat fiber. That's what the stringy parts of the pigs are for, lady, and that's why they call pork shank "The Citrucel of Pigmeats."

Missing. So many things. There is no mention of a gigantic flatscreen toted to the tailgate, and then hooked up to a satellite feed to facilitate full football maximization on the Saturday. The words "camp chair" appear nowhere, and neither does the crucial phrase "Dorito Salad." Alcohol is a ghost here, and if a tailgate is about anything it's about getting drunk enough to be social. (By being social, we mean "watching football while having terse conversation without making eye contact.")

Nonsequential. The greatest error of all is assuming you have to serve things in order. Nothing could be less accurate in terms of tailgate protocol. In our experience, dessert is produced in plastic containers first, and then meat is cooked on the grill second, and then after that it's all a tragic snowball of insulin-spiking carbohydrates and heartkilling tubemeats. She also suggests serving a quesadilla instead of gigantic hunks of meat or recently thawed discount hamburgers.

Offramp. This woman is dangerously insane; listen to her words, and thus willingly take the offramp to hell itself.

Pratfalls. Now that Cincinnati has dropped a game against Toledo and kept itself from being a pesky undefeated complication from the Big East, the prospect of returning the favor against Louisville this weekend makes for some tantalizing revenge porn. Louisville is due, too, riding a streak of close wins against middling competition. They only beat Southern Miss by four points, and even if they played the game in a monsoon there's no excuse for a team letting the 111th ranked team in F/+ hang on your back bumper for longer than a few seconds.

Qyendarius. There are mere Quendariuses wandering the earth, but I will always opt for the greatest variation, linebacker Qyendarius Griffin of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Record. It's bad for you and good for Alabama fans when you have to go back a decade to find aberrant losses by Nick Saban-coached teams, but looking at Nick Saban football is really less about identifying weaknesses and more about unearthing proof of earlier, inexplicable disasters.

Smash. The route combo Utah used to work Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, a really weird thing to think about now because Utah is now Utah, middling member of the Pac-12, and Alabama is Alabama. It's a simple route, but when run properly it is indefensible. It happens to be especially indefensible when an important offensive lineman is suspended, your team is totally unmotivated, and you are facing an opponent high on underdog fumes.

Ternion. A word for three of something, as in the three things needed to beat a team as in sync as Alabama is right now: personnel losses, blind luck, and perfect execution of really basic things. Mississippi State has none of these, and only one real check mark in the asset column: they are a ranked team with a winning record, something Alabama has only played once. That number seems small, and then you look at the number of BCS-ranked teams Miss State has played: zero.

P.S. Let's just ditch the equivalencies, and go back to agreeing on Mississippi State needing every lottery ticket it can get to win this weekend against Alabama. Remember: Ron Zook beat Nick Saban head-to-head. It's happened before, and so much more improbably.

Unholy. The Oregon Ducks play Colorado this weekend. I remind you college has no forfeit rule, and perhaps should have at least an option for one provided you play a half of football. If you support a team's right to end a game with dignity, you'll vote yes for the halftime euthanasia option this February at the Rules Committee meeting.

Valiant. Duke has never beaten Florida State. They play this weekend, and Duke has the rare opportunity to play them again if they run the rest of the table in the Coastal Division. If the ACC is about anything, it's about watching Duke lose by 20 TWICE to determine the conference title.

Whirlyball. Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson face each other in Lincoln, thus guaranteeing the highest proportion of dazzling runs to wobbling, indeterminately targeted passes of any game in FBS football this Saturday. To simulate this at home, simply go to your nearest Whirlyball court with a friend. It will look exactly like Nebraska-Michigan.

X. The middle initial of Dana X. Bible, offensive coordinator for the NC State Wolfpack. His first offensive play has already been called in their rivalry game against UNC this weekend: the band rolled through UNC's campus blasting their fight song to horrendous reviews from resident Tar Heels.

Ypsilanti. The home of Eastern Michigan, making it MAC country, meaning the entire city may have the opportunity to gloat over the Big East if Kent State (6-1) upsets Rutgers (7-0)s, thus completing the Big East's hypothetical weekend of seppuku and sadness.

ZZ Top. Don't even have a football point for "Z" this week, but I would like to point out that if your parents listened to this when you were a kid, it's because they took recreational drugs frequently.

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