Free Form Friday: This Post May Cause Chest Pains Edition.

It's college football's offseason. That's not my problem. It's not your problem. It's our problem. And collective problems call for collective solutions.

Thus we present Free Form Friday. Until the merciful sunshine of college pigskin returns to this cold, barren Earth, I'll spend Fridays posting a vaguely organized compendium of non-sequiturs, pop culture observations and college sports miscellany which you may discuss in the comments, or ignore in favor of discussing last night's episode of Archer. Think of it as your weekend open comment thread. 

Sometimes on the way home from work in the evenings I tune in to the Paul Finebaum Show. Usually, I can only listen for greater than 30 seconds immediately following some catastrophe or scandal surrounding the Auburn and Alabama football programs, because the rest of the time it's just a bunch of guys named Bubba and Skeeter (and Tammy) stringing together raving dissertations that make one, singular point abundantly clear: Finebaum callers don't know jack-diddly crap about football. Seriously, most Paul callers (let's just call them "Paaawwwwlllllllllers"* shall we?) couldn't tell you the difference between Cover 2 and Tampa 2 if Monte Kiffin were whispering it into their grimey ears. There's nothing intrinsically wrong about that. Being a football fan is like being a golfer or an amateur munitions manufacturer: you don't have to really know what you're doing to enjoy it. What Finebaum's callers lack in football knowledge, hygeine, and genetic diversity they make up for with lardy enthusiasm. Good for them, I just don't find it that entertaining.

But just occasionally I hear something on the Finebaum Show that makes me really, really fearful for America. Such as yesterday when Finebaum listener "Smokey" called in from Trinity Hospital in Birmingham to let Paul know he loved the show. Oh, and he was having a heart attack. Seriously. On a side note, if you're not Ice Cube's sidekick in an irreverent coming-of-age story set in south central L.A., but are nevertheless known as "Smokey", you're probably a prime candiate for cardiovascular problems.

What's amazing is that I can imagine Finebaum callers ringing up the Hebrew Hammer (chortle) in the midst of all sorts of other activities without for one moment believing those calls won't eventually happen. I'm truly surprised that no one has called the show while actively participating in a wedding ("Pawl, my sister's gone go 'head and marry this here wussy boy from Tuscalooser, and I gotta go up and do the readin' from the other Pawl's letter to the Corinthians. But I'll hang up and listen."). The fact that no one has (so far as I know) managed to ring the show from a correctional facility is a true shocker. And I'm fairly certain it's only a matter of time before some kid is running around Prattville with the name Bryant Finebaum Johnson because, well, that's how he got here. Your thoughts on the places from which it is acceptable to call into sports talk radio, and the activities which one may safely engage in while calling about that dirty cheater Cam Newton are appreciated. 

On a more somber note, we here at Dawg Sports were saddened yesterday to learn of the passing of Coach Emory Bellard, former Texas A&M and Mississippi State head man and reputed originator of the wishbone formation. Bellard was a very successful high school coach in Texas back in the days when that was the way to break into the college coaching ranks. While working for Darrell Royal he had the idea to insert a third runningback right behind the quarterback in the split backfield from which other teams had run the veer for years. The wishbone was born, and Royal's Longhorns rode the formation to a national championship. As legendary Arkansas coach and athletic director Frank Broyles once said of Bellard "I hated him for coming up with the wishbone." If you're going to be hated for coming up with something, being the guy who came up with the wishbone beats the heck out of being the first person to use the phrase metrosexual, the first person to do tae-bo, and the first person to enjoy Paula Abdul's crappy American Idol knockoff dance show. We salute you, coach.

But life is sweet. Especially for me, for as I sit here typing I am enjoying some of the last of the candy that infiltrated our home over the holidays. Right now I'm working on the toblerone chocolate bar that Santa helpfully put in my stocking. I'd never had a toblerone before I met the lovely woman who is now my wife, but she enjoys them as much as any sweet on the face of the Earth. Unfortunately for her she's cut out eating candy this year. This is fortunate for me, because her decision did not staunch the tidal wave of sweet treats that somehow found their way into our humble abode from November to January.

For the uninitiated, the toblerone is a Swiss milk chocolate candy bar containing honey and almond nougat. It is addictive. It is also the type of chocolate bar that could only have been designed by Europeans. Because the bar is shaped into neat little triangular segments that remind you, as you snap them off one by one, that you are eating entirely too much chocolate infused with honey and nougut. American candy bars have no such ridges. They are a sleek, shiny log of chocolate, caramel and various and sundry binders and fillers shaped so that you can down the whole 7000 calorie bar without even realizing it. Then you get in your gas-guzzling SUV and you drive to a 24 hour convenience store, where you buy another overpriced and fattening chocolate bar. Because that's the American way, dadgumit. America: we didn't invent the candy bar. We perfected it. Toblerones are great, but if there's a better candy bar out there than the original snickers bar, I haven't found it.

Of course there's nothing more American than college football, which we talk about on this site even though ours in a basketball school (he said as he sobbed quietly at the keyboard and snapped off another piece of chocolate). It's that time of year when the college football press begins thinking collectively about their poll rankings for the following season, and there are a couple of teams you should get yourselves ready to hear about in that regard. One is Alabama. The Tide lose a lot on offense, including quarterback Greg McElroy, tailback Mark Ingram, and receiver Julio Jones. That being said, they were inexperienced at all of those spots in 2009 and won a national championship (which being Alabama, they won't let anyone forget).

But championships are still won with defense and the Tide defense is stacked. The young secondary that was a liability in 2010 is all grown up. There might not be a better, more physical pair of cornerbacks in America than Dre Kirkpatrick and DeMarcus Milliner. The front 7 looks secure. And the schedule looks a lot more favorable than last year, with road contests at Penn State, Florida, Ole Miss and Missy State intwined with 7 home games in Bryant-Denny. All of that leads up to a trip to Auburn for an Iron Bowl which will not be started by Cam Newton. Do not be surprised to see Alabama back in the national championship discussion in November.

The otherteam you'll hear a lot about is Oklahoma. The Sooners finished off a 12-2 2010 campaign by dismantling an overmatched Connecticut squad in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. They return quarterback Landry Jones, who threw for over 4700 yards in his first season as a fulltime starter. Hear me now and believe me later: 2011 Oklahoma is 2008 Georgia and 2009 Ole Miss in a shiny, Crimson wrapper. Those two losses were to Texas A&M and Missouri, but they weren't flukes. Oklahoma just got outplayed by good teams. The Sooners also pulled out a close 28-20 victory over a Texas team that at the time was only just beginning to show us how bad they could be.

Looking ahead Oklahoma will have a terribly tough time replacing DeMarco Murray's 1200 yards on the ground, though getting Ryan Broyles back at receiver will certainly help. However, you can never go wrong betting against a team that overperformed the previous year in their bowl game. The Sooners did just that. They beat a UConn team that barely made it out of the Big East and had no business being in a BCS bowl to begin with. The Sooners have the return end of their home and home with Florida State in September and go to Stillwater for the annual Bedlam game in November, both of which are loseable games. And that's before we consider Stoops' troops annual habit of dropping one to the likes of Texas A&M or Texas Tech. Oklahoma will be very good in 2011, but they won't be playing for a national championship, despite what the prognosticators will tell you. 

Georgia by the way will be ranked somewhere between #20 and #25 by at least one allegedly reputable poll. Because pollsters truly have no idea who else to put in those slots. It danged sure won't be Central Florida because that would make too much sense. It's illogical, but it will happen. Really, filling out an AP ballot is like seating people for your annual Christmas dinner. It's just a matter of shuffling the same folks around based on who's playing well with who these days. Finding some new peeps to invite would just be too much trouble.

As usual discuss among yourselves, try to play nice, and have a great Friday. Life will put up mountains in your path, but don't be discouraged. You should KTMFD, preferably with the edge of your hand. You could even raise a little sand, we won't mind:



 "Pawlers" rhymes with such favored Puff Dadddy descriptors as "ballers" and "shotcallers", by the way. You'll now spend the day imagining Charles from Reeltown and I-Man singing "It's All About The Benjamins." You're welcome.

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