Orange Bowl

College GameDay Kickoff: Week 3

 
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After 10 months of preparation the Crimson Tide Defense will attempt to contain Johnny Football and remain on top of the SEC.
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Rece Davis | ESPN

If only you could adequately describe it. Just the right adjectives or adverbs don't always do it justice. The "it" is the atmosphere in a college football stadium for a big game.

Vengeful, validating, defiant, redemptive, toxic, survival and blistering are all likely to be used this weekend but in very different contexts. The vibe in the house sets a tone from the start, but the play on the field either feeds that energy or thwarts it. Think of it as Sir Isaac Newton's law of motion, or in this case emotion.

Pretty much since Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett picked off Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in the end zone last year in Tuscaloosa, the entire sport has awaited Alabama's trip to Aggieland.

Think about what that pick did. It saved the game for the Aggies. It transformed Johnny Manziel's almost-fumble-turned-touchdown-pass from a cute highlight into a Heisman moment. Together, those plays created one layer of the atmosphere that will be evident at Kyle Field on Saturday: Alabama's trip on redemption road.

All of that sounds exciting, unless you're Amari Cooper. The Tide receiver absolutely nailed it when he said, "If we wanted to get revenge, we'd have to play that same team last year with the same team we had last year. It's really not a revenge thing. If you lose a fight with someone, you don't get revenge from fighting someone else."

That is probably Cooper reciting chapter and verse from the Saban Book of Process.

"The Process" has been wildly successful at poking holes in the atmosphere. It is the ideal way to approach a big game. Actually executing in the cauldron is a different matter.

This is hardly the biggest game Alabama has played over the past few years. It won't be louder than LSU or any other big SEC stadium, but at Kyle Field the noise is constant and orchestrated. The fans sway in unison and it looks as if the whole place is going to tip over.

Even if Alabama does secretly pine to avenge last season's loss, the chip on A&M's shoulder will be just as big. The Johnny Football drama has left many Aggies fans feeling persecuted. Validating last season's win pales in comparison to confirming their cause of standing up for a fellow Aggie. What better way to do that than to have Manziel lead a second gigging of the Tide?

But as Cooper noted, these are different teams, which indicates it will be a different game.

Alabama had more rushes for negative or lost yards than anyone in the nation after the first game. How much of the Tide's O-line problems were due to first-start jitters for three offensive linemen? How much was due to Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster's scheme? How much of that can A&M replicate?

The Aggies have had a patchwork defensive lineup because of suspensions and injuries. How much of their sieve-like performances are due to vanilla schemes to keep young players from busting assignments? If the Tide does keep Manziel in the pocket, is he now so polished a pocket passer that he can beat them anyway?

Then there are the stakes. Save for dates with LSU, the winner would appear to have a favorable path to the SEC championship game and, possibly, the BCS title game. So throw a little desperation into the mix and the 97 degree temperature at kickoff will seem downright chilly compared to the atmosphere in Kyle Field.

Desperation of a different sort will be the prevailing feeling a couple of hours west in Austin, where Ole Miss comes in to take on the Longhorns. Shrapnel from BYU's evisceration of Texas' defense cost coordinator Manny Diaz his job.

Mack Brown brought in former defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to do the job. This is where Michigan fans say, "They hired who to do what?" Then they suggest this is akin to trying to douse a house fire with gasoline.

It has been a week in which Longhorns fans have gathered figurative torches and pitchforks and are honing in on Mack Brown.

Texas humiliated the Rebels in Oxford last year 66-31. Let Hugh Freeze's young team flip the script and actually win this year and the atmosphere on the 40 Acres might have a distinct scorched-earth feel.

Scorched earth will be the scene in Eugene, Ore., when Tennessee takes on the Ducks. Oregon will wipe out every shred of orange in its path.

Someday I'm going to write glowingly about the resurgence of Volunteer football under Butch Jones. There will be a day when the Vols return to glory. Alas, today is not that day.

Last week, Jones said my buddy Mark May inspired his team by putting them on upset alert against Western Kentucky. This week, I "volunteer" for the bulletin board. I'm putting the Vols on Autzen annihilation alert.

The Ducks will use the opportunity to make a statement for themselves and the Pac-12.

Never mind the fact that Tennessee has won two conference games in two years and hasn't had a winning conference record since Miley Cyrus was that innocent little Hannah Montana; the Vols have the SEC logo. The mere sight of those three letters seems to stoke the pride fire and will doubtless do so in Autzen on Saturday. The Vols just aren't equipped to survive in the Ducks' O-zone layer.

Whatever the billing -- validating, desperation, scorching -- the atmosphere figures to be a hot on college football Saturday.

 

 

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