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Mr. Sports: When it comes to the Iron Bowl, surprises can happen

By Bob Labbe

This is Thanksgiving week. It’s also the week of the Iron Bowl. Here in Alabama, the Iron bowl wins out against the traditional Thanksgiving holiday.
This Saturday (2:30 p.m.-Channel 19), the renewal, of what many football experts claim is the greatest rivalry in college football, will take to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-Auburn battle.

Although, this year’s contest seems to be an easy victory for the No. 2 ranked Crimson Tide against, what I think is the worst Auburn team I’ve personally ever seen, the Iron Bowl has and can be one game of major surprises. After all, it’s Alabama vs. Auburn.

Alabama is 7-2 when entering the Iron Bowl as defending National Champions. Television began developing an interest in the game and first beamed the classic rivalry to the rest of the nation on Nov. 26, 1964 in a game that featured an undefeated Alabama team led by quarterback Joe Namath.

In my 40-years in broadcasting/journalism, I’ve personally witnessed some of the great moments in Iron Bowl history. I was there, underneath the goal post, in 1985 when Van Tiffin kicked the last second 52-yard field goal, for the Bama win against the Tigers. I was there in 1982, for the “Bo Over The Top” touchdown and witness the end of Bear Bryant’s reign as head coach. I was there for “Wrong Way Bo’s” play on fourth and goal that gave Alabama a victory.

I was there for Bama’s first trip ever to Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn in 1989 for what the loudest game I ever attended.

I could go on and on about my experiences with the Iron Bowl, but until you witness this game and become part of it; those folks from other parts of our country will never really understand what this one game means to an entire state for 365-days. Its bragging rights. It’s our “religion” here in Alabama.

My advice for the new residents…join in. You won’t regret it.

College Football

The SEC is back in the hunt for the BCS National Championship and Alabama is leading the way!

As I predicted, two of the three undefeated teams atop the rankings fell. So, Notre Dame is now tops in all of college football with the No. 1 spot in the BCS.

The Crimson Tide moved up to No. 2 while Georgia, Florida and Oregon complete the top five. Six of the top 10 teams in the BCS are from the Southeastern Conference and with Alabama and Georgia victories this weekend comes the big showdown in the SEC Championship between the Tide and Bulldogs. It just doesn’t get better than this.

The Tennessee Volunteers parted ways with head coach Derek Dooley and now the search is on for a new coach to fill the spot with the Vols. The names my sources keep bringing up among others include Bobby Petrino and Sonny Dykes. Dykes is the current head coach of Louisiana Tech, which is among the top 25 teams in the country and is carrying the second best averaging scoring offense in the country. As for Petrino…we all know he’s a good coach, but recent off the field problems had him ousted at Arkansas.

Several games this week will have a huge modification of the national rankings and possible national championship for several teams. Let’s take a look at the games in the SEC and those national games of interest.

On Friday, LSU-Arkansas (1:30 p.m.-Channel 19). On Saturday, Georgia Tech-Georgia (11 a.m.-ESPN), Michigan-Ohio State (11 a.m.-Channel 31), Kentucky-Tennessee (11:20 a.m.-Channel 54), Oklahoma State-Oklahoma (2:30 p.m.-ESPN), Florida-Florida State (2:30 p.m.-Channel 31), Miss State-Ole Miss (6 p.m.-ESPNU), Missouri-Texas A&M (6 p.m.-ESPN2), South Carolina-Clemson (6 p.m.-ESPN), Oregon-Oregon State (6 p.m.-Channel 54), Notre Dame-Southern Cal (7 p.m.-Channel 31).

A quick look ahead to next week, on Friday, Nov. 30, the Pac 12 Championship game will be played 7 p.m.-Channel 54. On Saturday, Dec. 1, the SEC Championship between Alabama and Georgia will be played at 3 p.m.-Channel 19 and Kansas State will face Texas in the regular season ending contest.

After all of this, the bowl games begin, with the BCS National Championship Game set for Monday, Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m.-ESPN.

Huntsville Havoc Hockey
Opening weekend for the Huntsville Havoc was successful with more than 6,700 fans attending for the two night weekend. The Havoc will play two matches at home this Thanksgiving holiday. The home team will hit the ice on Thanksgiving night and Friday night at 7:30 p.m. with both nights’ very special events in the team’s season home schedule.
On Thanksgiving evening, with its usual special $2 drink and food specials, the annual “Teddy Bear Toss” will be held where fans can bring a soft toy to throw on the ice after the first Havoc goal. The toys will be collected for Toys for Tots and the Downtown Rescue Mission. On Friday night, “Superhero Night” will be held with fans asked to dress up as their favorite superhero and be eligible for a $100 Best Buy gift card and other great prizes. The Havoc will then return home for one home match next week on Thursday, Nov. 29.
Glenn Detulleo, who took over the reins as head coach just before the close of last season after being a player for the Havoc last year, is back for his first full season as a coach and not as a player. “The players I played with last season and the new players on board this season has made the transition for me from player to coach have been good and we all look forward to the new season,” said Detulleo. “I’ve got a lot to learn, but just having the opportunity is very special.”
“We’re stressing to be an up-tempo style of team instead of sitting back for waiting for things to happen as we want to be the aggressors on the ice and set the tone,” added Detulleo. “We’re a bigger physically team and should be a team other teams don’t want to come here and play. I see a lot of those characteristics in our players and it’s just a matter of getting them on a night-to-night basis. That’s the way I played as a player as I went full blast and I think it’s the only way to play. That’s what the fans want to see.”

Bits & Pieces
The NCAA announced the University of Alabama and the Alabama Sports Foundation will co-host the 2014 NCAA Woman’s Gymnastics Championships in Birmingham. The two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide, totaling six in the school’s history, will act as host for the championships’ return to the state for the first time in nine years. The last time the championships were held in Auburn.
Brad Keselowski won his first NASCAR Points Championship with a 39-point total ahead of second place finisher Clint Bowyer, who moved past third place finisher Jimmie Johnson in the final race of the 2012 season. Bowyer took second place in the race at Homestead-Miami while Johnson had mechanical problems and completed the race at No. 36. Keselowski raced to a 15th position, which is all he needed to win the points total for the year.
Let’s cheer on Madison Academy in the third round of the state high school playoffs as the Mustangs (9-2) will host Colbert County (8-4) this Friday at 7 p.m.
Predictions for this week’s college football games go like this:
LSU defeats Arkansas, Georgia nails Georgia Tech, Florida State whips Florida, Clemson beats South Carolina, Oregon eases past Oregon State, Southern Cal upsets Notre Dame and Alabama crushes Auburn.
Happy Thanksgiving from my house and my family to yours.