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WBE Mythbusters No. 4: He doesn’t care

Hey, remember this series?

Oh yeah he does.

Unless you’ve got a real talent for it, I don’t think it’s good form, generally, for a blogger to quote, respond to, and/or mock random message board posters or thread-commenters out there on the Interwebs. There is low-hanging fruit, and then there is, say, the al.com comment threads, where the fruit positively hurls itself at you, with terrifying ferocity, as you meekly scroll by. These are not the sorts of fruit a self-respecting blogger ought to be picking.

But today I’m going to quote this Tidefans.com post* I picked up off the Twitters a while back, because it’s such a perfect example of a much, much larger and persistent trend amongst the Tide faithful:

Little Sister can’t keep Big Brother out of anything, not they’re Interviews, Practices, Speeches, etc. Can you say obsessive? I can’t recall Coach Saban ever really comparing what we do to something other schools are doing. It’s all about OUR program with Coach.

Ah yes, the age-old “Auburn is obsessed with Alabama; Alabama doesn’t care about Auburn” fallacy. A classic, one of the truly time-tested and FDA-approved methods of Tide elitism, maybe just one rung on the ladder beneath arguing that learning to save animals’ lives is a lesser calling than corporate lawyerdom. It’s a fallacy that’s taken all sorts of specific forms over the years, with the “Coach Saban doesn’t care about Auburn’s recruiting strategies/Malzahn’s high school offense/anything Auburn-related at all” variety a relatively new one.

What’s hysterical about this line of thinking is that the Tide’s resident coachbot was talking about Auburn in his very first press conference:

The second thing was, work every day to dominate your opponent. You know, we have an opponent in this state that we work every day, 365 days a year, to dominate. That’s our goal.

I’m sure he was talking about Troy. Exhibit B:

Don’t you know how much I hate these [bleeping] guys?

The defense could just rest its case here, but at the start of this month we got a piece of evidence even bigger, really, than either of the above quotes: Alabama re-scheduling its game against Georgia State to Thursday. Actions, words, the comparative loudness thereof, etc.

“But wait,” the Tide fans says. “Coach Saban’s not that concerned with Auburn. He just doesn’t want to go into any more games where the opponent has a bye week and we don’t, especially when the game’s on a Friday.” This is almost a valid point, except that Georgia St. is already a bye no matter what night it’s played on. They make last year’s date with Chattanooga** look like the Tide’s date with Texas. The Panthers are the single worst opponent Alabama could have possibly scheduled.

It’s worth repeating that: Georgia State is the single worst opponent out of all possible opponents Alabama could have scheduled. FBS teams can’t schedule D-II teams (or at least, I have yet to see them try), so the easiest possible opponent is an FCS team that’s in its first year, starting from scratch, still without its full compliment of scholarship players. We’ll see, but it’s my guess the majority of D-II squads could handle GSU this year. You tell me: would no one care if Alabama scheduled West Alabama or Tuskegee? Would no one laugh at them if they moved their game against West Alabama because they thought it would hinder their efforts the following week against Auburn?

I can accept the Tide’s argument that a game against even a run-of-the-mill FCS opponent isn’t quite the same as a bye, since there’s a certain amount of energy expended–even if it ain’t much–on going through the gameday motions, giving yourself that tiny bit of emotional spark, letting the starters get hit a time or two just to make the effort of getting to the stadium worth their while. But that doesn’t hold true for 2010 Georgia St. Alabama could literally rest their entire two-deep, play with nothing but third-stringers and walk-ons, and they’d win by 30.

So why don’t they? Well, they might anyway. But why not do it on Saturday? Because, just like Auburn, they don’t want to take any chances with the Iron Bowl. They want every advantage they can possibly get. They want to give themselves the very best chance of winning available, short of waiting ’til Week 11 to burn their bye. They picked “Georgia St. on a Thursday night” instead–the very closest match-up to “bye” out of all possible match-ups.

And yet some fans would have you believe that the coach who’s helped engineer that decision and has repeatedly made it clear how badly he wants to win against the opponent that motivated that decision harbors no particular grudge or extra desire against that opponent. Right. Sure.

BONUS Tide scheduling commentary! As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t begrudge Tide fans their complaints about so many teams having a bye the week before facing their team. I wouldn’t like it if Auburn was in the same boat. But I do begrudge them the occasional whinge I’ve seen about how no one would alter their schedule to accommodate them, seeing as how the chances Alabama would have changed their schedule this late in the day for anyone else are perfectly equivalent to Georgia St.’s chances of winning in Bryant-Denny. Take it up with the league, fellas.

Besides, it’s not like this year’s Tide are the first team to have to run through that kind of gauntlet. Will Collier wrote me an e-mail a while back:

[B]ack in 1983, Auburn played what’s generally considered the most difficult schedule in SEC history (IMO certainly the most difficult season anybody’s ever successfully navigated). The first 10 games, 7 of which featured eventual bowl teams [back when not every Tom, Dick, and Middle Tennessee State were invited to bowl games–ed.], were played without a break, and about 7 in a row of those first 10 teams had open dates before they played AU (I need to check the highlight film to confirm that number; Dye mentioned it in his post-game comments after the Georgia game).

I figured I’d double check Will’s memory. Here’s a breakdown of Auburn’s 1983 schedule:

Week 1: W 24-3 vs. Southern Miss. Finished 7-4.
Week 2: L 7-20 vs. No. 3 Texas, off bye week. Finished regular season 11-0, SWC champs, ranked No. 2, played Cotton Bowl, final ranking No. 5.
Week 3: W 37-14 at Tennessee, off bye week. Finished 8-3, t-3rd SEC (4-2), Citrus Bowl champs.
Week 4: W 27-24 vs. No. 17 Florida St., off bye week. Finished 6-5, Peach Bowl champions.
Week 5: W 49-21 at Kentucky, off bye week. Finished 6-4-1, played All-American Bowl.
Week 6: W 31-13 at Georgia Tech. Finished 3-8.
Week 7: W 28-13 vs. Mississippi St. Finished 3-8
Week 8: W 28-21 vs. No. 5 Florida. Finished 8-2-1, t-3rd SEC (4-2), No. 11, Gator Bowl champions, final ranking No. 6.
Week 9: W 35-23 vs. No. 7 Maryland. Finished 8-3, ACC champions, No. 17, played Citrus Bowl.
Week 10: W 13-7 at No. 4 Georgia. Finished 9-1-1, 2nd SEC (5-1), No. 7, Cotton Bowl champs, final ranking No. 4.
Week 11: W 23-20 vs. No. 19 Alabama (at Legion Field). Finished 7-4, t-3rd SEC (4-2), Sun Bowl champs, final ranking No. 15.
Sugar Bowl: W 9-7 vs. No. 8 Michigan. Finished 9-2, 2nd Big Ten (8-1)***, final ranking No. 8.

So, if you’re keeping track, Will’s memory was a touch faulty: there were only four bye-taking opponents in a row. Of course, all four of which went on to bowls, two of which were ranked, two of which were on the road, two of which finished with nine of more wins in a total 12-game schedule. As a whole over those first 10 bye-less weeks, Auburn did indeed face 7 bowl teams, as well as 5 ranked teams, half of the AP’s final top 6, two league champions and the SEC runner-up, and eight winning teams. Add in Michigan and Alabama, and the numbers rise to 9 bowl teams, 7 ranked teams, half of the AP’s final top 8 (or 4 of 7 Auburn could have played, being one of those teams themselves), two league champions and two runners-up, and 10 winning teams in 12 games.

And the defending national champions are moving Georgia State to Thursday.

*I strongly discourage Auburn fans, or really any sentient, self-aware beings, from bothering to read the thread.

**If Auburn gained the tiniest shred of a “wear-and-tear” advantage out of their bye vs. the Tide’s FCS scrimmage, it’s worth reminding the Tide faithful that they didn’t in terms of the supposedly-precious “preparation” that led to Auburn’s 14-0 lead and defensive success. Unless you think, of course, that Saban and his staff spent the week ahead of the UTC game diligently breaking down film and scout-teaming the Mocs. That makes a lot of sense.

***Just find it interesting that the Big Ten was playing three more conference games than the SEC at the time. And that since then they’ve reduced their conference games by one while the SEC has increased theirs by two.

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