The temperatures are up, practice has mercifully started (stay hydrated, fellas) and Ohio State doesn't go before the Committee on Infractions until next week. The games are less than a month away and life is good. We only have four Saturdays left without college football, which is the perfect time to celebrate this week's Friday Follies.
1. No freshman will feel more pressure than Georgia's Isaiah Crowell: If you believe the recruiting rankings, Crowell, from Columbus, Ga., was one of the best high school running backs in the country last season. On national signing day Georgia coach Mark Richt stepped out there and said that Crowell "might tote that rock in the first game." Georgia opens the season on Sept. 3 with Boise State in Atlanta.
|Georgia freshman Isaiah Crowell will be the Bulldogs' likely starter in the opener against Boise State. (AP)|
True freshmen running backs can certainly make it in the SEC. Marcus Lattimore was third in the league in rushing and a big reason South Carolina got to the SEC Championship Game. Auburn's Michael Dyer was the MVP of the BCS championship game.
Crowell is good. But is he Lattimore or Dyer good?
With two monster games against Boise and South Carolina to open the season, Georgia certainly hopes he is.
2. I miss Steve Spurrier's annual vote for Duke: One of college football's fun rituals has always been the release of the coaches poll in August. But immediately after checking out the top five I used to go to "others receiving votes." And there it was: "Duke, 1."
That's when we knew Steve Spurrier was still voting in the coaches poll. Spurrier knows that the preseason poll is for entertainment value and to give us talking heads a few segment killers. So as an homage to Duke, where he won an ACC championship as head coach in 1989, Spurrier would always reserve his No. 25 vote for the Blue Devils, regardless of how much they were struggling.
"Duke doesn't get a lot of publicity in football so it's just a little something for them for a week," Spurrier told me a couple of years ago.
Understand that Spurrier has always been fiercely loyal to the players on that '89 team. He tries to attend every reunion they have. Spurrier would keep Duke at No. 25 until they lost.
But a couple of years ago Grant Teaff, who oversees the poll as the Executive Director of the American Football Coaches Association, called Spurrier and politely asked him not to cast that annual vote for Duke -- unless he really thought the Blue Devils were Top 25 worthy. Spurrier agreed.
"Yeah, I was just trying to help Duke get a little recognition from the media boys," he said. "I guess too many people are paying attention these days."
3. At least Alabama and Auburn aren't having knife fights: Living in this part of the world I have seen the excesses of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. I've listened to Harvey Updyke brag on the Paul Finebaum show that he poisoned the precious trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner. I know otherwise happily married couples who will not and cannot watch the game together. Given that Alabama won the 2009 national championship and Auburn won it 2010 -- by coming back from 24-0 to win at Tuscaloosa -- it's fair to say that the rivalry right now is as nasty as it has ever been.
But at least Auburn and Alabama fans, to the best of my knowledge, haven't had a knife fight at an Applebee's. Two men who were reportedly fans of Texas and Oklahoma got in a brawl at the San Antonio location the other night. When the fighting was over both men had been cut and both were hospitalized.
The closest thing I can remember to that kind of drama at the Alabama-Auburn game was at a bar that used to be located near Legion Field in Birmingham. Legend has it that when you walked in "The Tide and the Tiger" the owner would ask: "Do you have a gun?" If you said no he would then ask: "Do you want one?"
4. A heavy Heisman campaign: I would love to know what Northwestern is spending in postage for its Heisman mailings on quarterback Dan Persa. I thought the box from Northwestern included media guides. Then I tried to lift it. Inside there were two purple dumbbells weighing seven pounds each. The campaign is called "PersaStrong" because the Northwestern quarterback is a monster in the weight room and "pound-for-pound the strongest player on the team." The campaign also highlights the fact that Persa is a Big Ten distinguished scholar and its first-team quarterback. But what really touched me is that they sent the weights to us poor schlubs in the media hoping that we would work out more and stay away from press box buffets. Bless their hearts. Just in case you don't know: Persa is a helluva football player.
5. Stephen Garcia and G.A. Mangus now need each other: Garcia, the star-crossed quarterback, and Mangus, who was arrested in Greenville, S.C., for public urination, were both reinstated this week as South Carolina began preseason practice. They need to start looking out for each other.
Garcia has been suspended five times in his career, which has to be some kind of record, especially for a guy who plays for Spurrier. He is smart. He is talented. He's just not disciplined. But his teammates like Garcia because when the game starts, he will flat out lay it all on the line.
Mangus is working with Garcia for the third straight season and has made a difference in Garcia's game. Mangus has paid a pretty steep price as he was docked a month's salary ($14,200, try explaining that to the wife) and will be on probation for the duration of his contract.
Just a word of advice for South Carolina coaches: If you're going to get into trouble, don't do it in Greenville. That's Clemson territory.
The Tony Barnhart Show will return on Aug. 30 on The CBS Sports Network.