Apparently there is a down-side to winning at the University of Alabama and head coach Nick Saban is none too happy about the fact the student section has gotten in the habit of leaving the stadium as early as halftime when the unbeaten Crimson Tide blows away opponents. “I’ve talked about players playing for 60 minutes in the game and competing for 60 minutes in the game.
“In some way, everybody that choses to go to the game should stay there and support the team for the (entire) game,” the coach said earlier this week. “If (someone) is not interested in doing that, you should let somebody else go who would really like to go because,” he added pointedly, “I have a lot of people who want to go.”
Alabama is in a pilot year of “block seating,” where fraternities and other student organizations get blocks of seats in Bryant-Denny Stadium in order to sit together. But what is happening is that they are also leaving together before the end of run-away games and university officials are irked about it.
Jimmy Taylor, president of the Student Government Association at the university, has warned the groups, “Administrators will review photos and film of the student section and seating will be taken away from these organizations who abandon group seating … if sections do not remain full, this will be the final year of Student Organization Seating.”
The organized-seating rules call for each group to sign documents that they will stay for the entire game and specifically states, “Excessive tardiness or early departure from the stadium is unacceptable behavior.”
Saban said the huge areas of empty seats could affect recruiting. “We have lots of recruits here and we like to see an enthusiastic, full stadium. We have one of the nicest venues in all of college football and I think we should show our appreciation for it by staying and supporting our team for the whole game.”
Alabama, of course, hosts Tennessee tomorrow in a 3:30 p.m. game (EDT) that will be telecast on CBS. The top-ranked Tide leads the SEC in home attendance with an average 101,679 fans at home this year. That said, here is how I am picking this week’s biggest games:
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WAKE FOREST (4-3) at No. 7 MIAMI (6-0), 12:00 Noon on ESPNU – The Hurricanes ducked a bullet this week when no post-season bowl ban was handed down by the NCAA and they’ll try to dodge another against the sputtering Demon Deacons tomorrow. Miami rallied from a 10-point deficit in the 4th quarter to whip UNC last week but they are a three TD favorite over Wake, which lost to Clemson by 49 points. Miami is averaging 42.2 points per game while giving up an average of 17.2 in six games. MY PICK? Miami, 49-10.
VANDERBILT (4-3, 1-3 SEC) at No. 14 TEXAS A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC), 12:21 p.m. on SEC TV – With Vandy QB Austyn Carta-Samuels questionable, A&M’s Johnny Manziel will play on. “Johnny Football” leads the SEC in passing, averaging 381.2 yards per game. The thing about Johnny is he’s cat-quick and Vandy, after a big win over Georgia last week, isn’t ready to repeat in College Station. A&M’s defense is the worst in the SEC so Vandy will have to take advantage of miscues like the ‘Dores did against Georgia. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 42-31.
GEORGIA TECH (4-3) at VIRGINIA (2-5), 12:30 p.m. on ACC Network – Tech is a study: The Jackets lost four straight before throttling Syracuse 56-0 last week so UVa isn’t quite sure which team will show up. You can bet GT will go often to RB Zack Lankey after his 3 TDs last week and, with the Cavaliers’ poor showing thus far, it appears this will resemble Tech’s 56-20 win over the Wahoos a year ago. Add the fact UVa coach Mike London, now 18-26 in his fourth year, is feeling the heat. MY PICK? Georgia Tech, 49-17.
TENNESSEE (4-3, 1-2 SEC) at No. 1 ALABAMA (7-0, 4-0 SEC), 3:30pm ET on CBS – As valiant as UT’s 23-21 upset over South Carolina was, it is nowhere the size of Alabama’s excellence right now. Butch Jones’ Vols are still a work-in-progress – remember that! -- while Nick Saban is right where he wants to be in the Tide’s quest for another crystal ball. Alabama has great first-teamers and depth where it counts. UA is a 28-point favorite, which is about right when your average score in the first seven games has been 40.7-to-9.7. MY PICK? Alabama, 45-10.
No. 9 CLEMSON (6-1) at MARYLAND (5-2), 3:30 p.m. on ESPN – The Tigers are still shocked and embarrassed after Florida State’s 51-14 pounding so they need to win big from here out, all things considered. Clemson is still a splendid team but the Terps dropped a 31-10 loss to Wake Forest last week after struggling in the two games before. Keep your eye on the Tajh Boyd-Sammy Watkins tandem and you’ll see why the Tigers are favored by 14. MY PICK? Clemson, 36-14.
No. 10 TEXAS TECH (7-0) at No. 15 OKLAHOMA (6-1), 3:30 p.m. – Unbeaten TTU is a 7-point underdog, despite the fact Kliff Kingsbury’s Raiders are scoring 41.1 points per game (second in the Big 12) and a 548.1 yards per game total output is the sixth-best in the country. UO’s defense is salty, ranking ninth in the country with 293.4 yards allowed, so you gotta’ figure the edge is because this one’s in Norman and TTU has a true freshman QB. MY PICK? Oklahoma, 35-24.
No. 21 SOUTH CAROLINA (5-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 5 MISSOURI (7-0, 3-0 SEC), 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2) – If unbeaten Missouri is as big and powerful and balanced as everyone says, why is the No. 5 team in the country a 5-point underdog to the twice-beaten Gamecocks? SC was humbled in Knoxville last week and the thinking is Spurrier’s boys got too big for their britches after the 52-7 win at Arkansas. Now The Ol’ Ball Coach is in a “must win” mode with the SEC East title slipping away. Let’s go with emotion. MY PICK? South Carolina, 31-21.
No. 12 UCLA (5-1) at No. 2 OREGON (7-0), 7:00 p.m. – The high-flying Ducks are averaging 57.6 points per game and UCLA hasn’t given up more than 27 points in a game this year. The Bruins average 39.8 points a game – 20th in the FBS – so are we ready to see a repeat of last year’s Pac12 title game where UO won it, 49-31? With Heisman favorite Marcus Mariota playing great and runner Byron Marshall adding five 100-plus yard games, it is easy to see why the Ducks are a 21-point favorite. This is the 93rd sellout in Autzen Stadium. MY PICK? Oregon, 41-27.
PENN STATE (4-2) at No. 4 OHIO STATE (7-0), 8:00 p.m. – OSU has it working; undefeated, three squeaking conference wins in a row, and a nation-best 19 consecutive victories but where is the Buckeyes’ knockout punch? OSU struggles to put a good team away and PSU, beating Michigan by 3 last week, doesn’t look like a team that should be a 14-point underdog. Urban Meyer knows how to coach a game like this but unless his stars shine brighter, Penn State and the points looks pretty tasty. MY PICK? Ohio State, 34-24.
No. 8 STANFORD (6-1) at No. 25 OREGON STATE (6-1), 10:30 p.m. – Cardinal RB Tyler Gaffney had 171 yards on 36 carries to spark SU’s 24-10 win over UCLA so it will be SU’s run game against the rifle arm of OSU’s Sean Mannion, who has thrown for over 350 yards in all seven games this fall. Kevin Hogan, the Stanford QB, threw 3 TD passes in last year 27-23 win over OSU but the Beavers, a 6-point underdog, want to stay unbeaten in Pac-12 play. MY PICK? Stanford, 32-24.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
FURMAN (3-4) at LSU (6-2, 3-2 SEC), 7:00 p.m. – After Ole Miss pinned a 27-24 upset on the previously unbeaten Tigers, coach Les Miles said, "I’ve got to do a better job. I’ve got to get their attention.” LSU is favored by 47. MY PICK: LSU, 49-0.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC (2-5) at AUBURN (6-1, 3-1 SEC), 7:30 p.m. on FSN – The Tigers are a 28-point favorite in a mismatch but AU needs to take care of business because the pressure is beginning to build in the “Iron Bowl.” Get this: Next week Auburn catches a lightly-regarded Arkansas in Fayetteville then plays at Tennessee before facing Georgia on The Plains. Auburn should be favored in all three league games, meaning the Tigers could conceivably be 11-1 when they meet their Iron Bowl nemesis, Alabama, in Jordan-Hare Stadium Nov. 23. Oh glory! MY PICK? Auburn, 42-6.
IDAHO (1-6) at OLE MISS (4-3, 2-3 SEC), 7:30 p.m. on CSS – This should be an easy step for Ole Miss in the Rebs’ quest to become bowl eligible. The Rebs lost three straight before the LSU upset last week and they should grasp the magical sixth game against Arkansas or Troy in the next two weeks. They close the season with Missouri in Oxford at State in Starkville so tomorrow is just a matter of taking care of business. Ole Miss is favored by 41 points over Idaho. MY PICK? Ole Miss, 42-10.
SEC TEAMS IDLE THIS WEEK
ARKANSAS (3-5, 0-4 SEC) will host Auburn on Nov. 2 in a game that will start at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN or at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2.
FLORIDA (4-3, 3-2 SEC) and GEORGIA (4-3 3-2 SEC) are both idle before they play their annual rivalry in Jacksonville on Nov. 2 at 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
AND ONE MORE …
CITADEL (2-5, 2-3 SoCon) at UT-CHATTANOOGA (5-2, 3-1 SoCon), 2:00 P.M. – The Mocs move from the nights to the afternoon at Finley Stadium this week and, with a forecast of sunny in the high 50s, a good crowd could help UTC to its fourth straight win and UTC’s 500th victory since the game first started here in 1904. The Moc defense has not allowed a touchdown in the last two outings but The Citadel was idle last week and, with an extrta week to prepare, will be far better than an ordinary team with a 2-5 record. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 34-13.