Friday, September 13, 2013

The Hippodrome: Same As It Ever Was

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 5:04 AM

This Week In The 'Drome We're Kicking It Back To The Old School

Never to be seen on a Titans sideline
  • Never to be seen on a Titans sideline

Opening Face-off

Tried & True vs. Something New: This week in the dead-tree, I note how the Titans won by going back and how the Preds will try to do likewise.

Sports change. The football of 2013 is not the football of 1969 or 1999 — or even 2007. Hockey has similarly evolved — multiple times. Offensive innovation is matched by defensive changes, which beget more offensive innovation and defensive adjustments, and then rules are changed "for the good of the game" (read: "for the good of the TV network coffers").

But the proverbial cat can be skinned in numerous ways, it's true. For all of Nick Saban's supposed innovation with the "process," his method of winning football is basically run and stop the run, which is cliché. Hockey teams win, more or less, by controlling the puck more than their opponent, and teams that consistently outshoot other teams consistently win. There's nothing new there. There are men we consider as innovators in football — Chip Kelly, late of Oregon, now of the Philadelphia Eagles, for example — who win with schemes that Saban would slur.

But win they do.

What Mike Munchak and Barry Trotz are hoping works, though, is a rehashing of old methods. Once successful, always so: argumentum ad antiquitatem.

In a general way, there's nothing wrong with that. But their systems specifically live within the margins. The Titans absolutely demolished the Steelers in time-of-possession, controlling the ball for more than 34 minutes of Sunday's game. And yet they won just by just a touchdown.

But win they did.

It remains to be seen if the cat being skinned is Schrodinger's. And if it is indeed alive or dead.

The Week Behind

Death by 1000 Very Slow Cuts
  • Death by 1000 Very Slow Cuts

The Steelers Wheel: The Pittsburgh Steelers are not a good football team.

Like a beloved restaurant that gets by on its reputation, the Steelers are still considered by casual (and even expert) observers as great, when, in fact, the steak is quite overdone.

That said, the Titans will take the win in Yinzerland. After all, no one expects that the Titans will be very good either (although they are not as woeful as many believe).

The running game ate clock like a goat with a mean case of pica. Jake Locker didn't do anything outrageously silly. Bernard Pollard managed not to get ejected. And most importantly, the Titans' score was larger than the Steelers'.

As one might guess, the stars in the 16-9 win were defensive: Jurrell Casey is a good player. Zach Brown made an early positioning mistake, but acquitted himself quite well the rest of the game. Michael Griffin never looked out of place — which sounds like a classic example of damning with faint praise, but given what Griffin is capable of, is not bad at all.

The road toughens from here, but being one of 16 teams at 1-0 is far better than the alternative.

Not A Second Too Late: A common knock on Vanderbilt is a late arriving (and early departing) crowd.

The stereotype is a little overblown, and with the resurgence (or the surgence) under James Franklin, fans are arriving earlier than before.

If only the offense would follow suit. The 'Dores played another poor first quarter Saturday against Austin Peay before a second-quarter explosion pacing a 38-3 win over the Governors.

Games against teams like Peay don't reveal much about a team (unless they are losses) and James Franklin is still struggling with one of his big on-field questions: who will back-up Austyn Carta-Samuels?

Personality Plus, Every Time I Come In Here: The Predators opened camp Thursday after Wednesday night's Skate of the Union event, which was filled with the usual red-meat pronouncements.

There were some notable things said: Trotz says the team will have personality, whatever that means. Nashville is allegedly in the running for an upcoming NHL All-Star Game. The SEC plans a major announcement for Bridgestone Arena. Eric Nystrom wants to "kill" his former team, the Dallas Stars.

Check-in day is a lot of fun and is full of hope. To a man, the Preds said they wanted to put the woeful, lockout-shortened 2013 season in the rear view and return to playoff contention. But now they are left with the prosaic task of whittling down the roster — and finding places for all the new pieces (and returning ones) to play.

Halftime Entertainment

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If Only Life Imitated Art: From Friend of the Drome Zack Bennett, the picture at right shows that in the new Madden NFL video game, LP Field offers hot chicken. Hey! Another thing the Titans can steal from the Predators.

GIF Of The Week: Don't worry. We didn't forget about you, Darius Reynaud, and your hilarious opening-kickoff kneel-down snafu that gave a safety to the Steelers just three seconds into the game, tying an NFL record for quickest score to start a game. This GIF will be the most embarrassing moment of Reynaud's career until he does something else knuckle-headed and gets cut in favor of a street free-agent.

I Had A Headache Tuesday and Therefore Will Be Out For The Season: After Yahoo broke the story of evidence of five SEC players having been paid by an agent, the one who is still playing, Tennessee's Maurice Couch, was suddenly struck with what must be a very serious case of heat exhaustion. UT coach Butch Jones said Couch will miss Saturday's game with that heat exhaustion. Eventually, Jones said Couch was in fact suspended.

A more burning question: Someone paid Tyler Bray to play football?

Don't They Know No One Is Allowed To Score At LP Field? : A couple on their first date was arrested for trespassing at LP Field.

The Week Ahead

Jadaveon Clowney Is Terrifying
  • Jadaveon Clowney Is Terrifying

Carolina Here They Come: Vanderbilt heads to South Carolina Saturday for easily their toughest test of the season (no offense to the good people in Clarksville).

While South Carolina has many fine players — including Connor Shaw, who has been the quarterback since the late 1970s — and is coached by Steve Spurrier, one of the great minds in the history of college football, Vanderbilt's on-field focus will be directly at the very scary visage of Jadaveon Clowney, a defensive lineman who is 9-feet tall, weighs 838 pounds and runs a sub-three-second 40 yard dash.

While Austyn Carta-Samuels' performances in the first two weeks have been universally lauded by pundits as "all right, I guess?" he's never faced a defensive player with such an ability to change the game (and also the rotation of the earth).

Vanderbilt very well may knock off one of the big boys of the SEC East. This week ain't it.

Worthless Prediction: South Carolina 24, Vanderbilt 7. We'll get to see who that back-up quarterback is, too!

That One Time When Bud Adams Is Definitely In Attendance: The Titans head to Houston for their first AFC South game of the season Sunday in a game inexplicably called by someone other than Ian Eagle.

The Texans are coming off a come-from-behind win that featured a drama a little more suited for Dallas. Running back Ben Tate waved off teammate Arian Foster as the latter tried to enter the game in the fourth quarter. Texans coach Gary Kubiak downplayed the incident, citing that both are pros and blah blah blah.

Houston QB Matt Schaub was his usual, quietly good self, going 34-for-45 for 346 yards and three scores. With 45 passing plays — and an effective Schaub — it's no wonder that Tate wanted to get as many carries as he could. Meanwhile, Jake Locker will complete his 34th pass for the Titans sometime in Week Five.

Despite the win Sunday night — and despite the 31-28 score line — the Texans looked vulnerable. The Titans will have their hands full, and yet, I'm still feeling bullish.

Worthless Prediction: Titans 24, Texans 20.

Overtime

Where We Are: The two stories that hit the world Saturday on Vanderbilt football were the talk of the town this week.

First, this from the New York Times: a sort-of pulse-taking of the university, the team and indeed the city of Nashville in the wake of the rape allegations.

The, if you'll forgive me, buzzier piece came from Bobby Allyn, late of The Tennessean, on BuzzFeed with a heavily anonymously sourced look at where the next shoe might drop in the case. It included an allegation from a "source close to one of the defendants" that James Franklin saw the video and encouraged a cover-up of it.

This has caused a great deal of anger from Vanderbilt people — as one might expect — resulting in questions about Allyn's credibility and about any legal recourse the university or Franklin might have. Attorney Alan Daniel Hall tries to break down this issues here.

In the wake of it — and I reckon I'm not alone — I've wondered if I would have put my name to Allyn's story. Darren McFarland, in fact, asked me point-blank on the radio after we had Allyn on Tuesday night.

That's a tough question to ask a reporter. I don't know — and neither do you — who Allyn's sources are, what kind of relationship he has with them, what kind of relationship he has with his editors at BuzzFeed. Readers only see the end product. It's helpful, at times, for us as journalists to show the level of work we put in on a story (on a story about the Ben West Building and its legal entanglements, I did an explainer for the Post, for example). But for stories like Allyn's, with a heavy reliance on sources who are anonymous — and the reasons some of the sources stayed anonymous are pretty apparent — it's not always feasible.

The easy thing for us to do as readers is to either accept the story as it's given or to dismiss it out of hand. The latter is especially tempting when it's on a site we've never heard of (Allyn tweeted how shocked he was so few people were aware of BuzzFeed, which means the Internet is not consuming nearly the number of corgi-based lists as we originally thought) or if a reporter counts on nameless sources. The hard thing is to consider the issues raised in the article and the broader implications thereof.

Meanwhile, there's a new development on the story everyday, even as court dates are delayed. As David Boclair first reported at Post Sports: one of the indicted players was on the roster at FBS Alcorn State. Less than 12 hours after Boclair broke the story, McKenzie was dismissed.

Emails to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Radio Tuesday nights on 102.5 The Game at 6 PM. Day-to-day at PostSports.

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