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Will the Saints Surprise Us in Seattle?

I expect the Saints to start strong offensively against Seattle this afternoon.

  • Sean Payton and his staff will put together an offensive game plan tailored to Teddy Bridgewater.
  • Other than part of the Rams game last week, the Seahawks have no regular season video of Bridgewater this year. And even last week, Teddy was executing a plan made for Drew Brees.
  • So they will be surprised by what Payton has concocted.
  • Hopefully, the Saints can put enough points on the board before the defense catches on to outlast the Seahawks, who are not an offensive juggernaut.

What hope can we have for a season that started with dreams of making the Super Bowl.

  • Here's the opponents the next six games, starting with Seattle today.
    -- Cowboys
    -- Buccaneers
    -- @Jaguars
    -- @Bears
    -- Cardinals
  • Going 3-3 against that slate is a reasonable expectation.
  • Then the Saints have their bye week, which will give Drew more time to return to action.
  • We're fortunate to be playing the weak AFC South this year. We beat perhaps the team in the division, Houston, in Week One with Drew at the helm.
  • Of course, the rest of the NFC South plays the same opponents.
  • Bottom line: The Saints have a good chance to still win the NFC South. However, the #1 seed in the NFC is out of the question.
  • Making the playoffs and perhaps winning the first game are realistically the best we can hope for.
Golden College Rankings after 4 Weeks
Team Avg. Points Win Loss Opp
1 Auburn 13.70 54.8 4 0 10 0 1.48 8 0.0 0.0  
2 Ohio State 13.38 54.5 4 0 8 0 2.28 5 0.0 0.0  
3 Clemson 13.38 53.5 4 0 7 0 1.78 5 0.0 0.0  
4 Wisconsin 13.33 40.0 3 0 5 0 1.32 4 0.0 0.0  
5 Mississippi State 13.24 53.0 3 1 7 0 1.06 10 0.0 0.0  
6 SMU 13.16 52.6 4 0 7 0 0.94 5 0.0 0.0  
7 Texas 13.07 52.3 3 1 6 0 1.08 5 0.0 0.0  
8 Washington 13.05 52.2 3 1 5 0 1.42 7 0.0 0.0  
9 California 13.03 52.1 4 0 7 0 0.31 8 0.0 0.0  
10 Alabama 13.02 52.1 4 0 5 0 1.44 3 0.0 0.0  
  • "Opps. wins" is the number of victories by the teams the ranked team defeated.
  • "Opps. losses" is the number of losses by the teams that defeated the ranked team.
  • "Opp. opps". is the number of victories by the teams the defeated teams beat.
  • "Score value" is a measure of the margin of victory in relation to the defeated team's number of wins coupled with the margin of defeat in relation to the victorious team's number of losses.
  • "Road win" and "Home Loss" haven't kicked in yet because opponents have to win at least six games to earn a bonus for beating them on the road and opponents have to have six losses before you lose points when they defeat you at home.

Toughest schedule: Mississippi State
Easiest schedule: Western Kentucky
Biggest jump this week from previous week: Not applicable yet
Biggest drop this week from previous week: Not applicable yet

Conference Rankings
  Conference Avg. Last
1 Big 12 12.468  
2 SEC 12.449  
3 Big 10 12.429  
4 PAC 12 12.384  
5 ACC 12.354  
6 America Ath. Conf. 12.176  
7 Mountain West 12.019  
8 Sun Belt 11.847  
9 CUSA 11.787  
10 MAC 11.619  

Avg. means the average score of the teams in the conference (with 12 being the starting point for each game and going up/down depending on whether the team wins/loses).

View complete Golden Rankings ...

My Week 4 Picks 10-12
Once again this year, I'm in a Yahoo Pick'em group that does Top 25 plus additional SEC games each week.

Home team in CAPS.
  • Charlotte +41 over #1 CLEMSON X
    Tigers take it easy second half.
  • Southern Miss + 39 over #2 ALABAMA X
    See Clemson above.
  • #3 GEORGIA over #7 Notre Dame +14 X
    Irishare pretenders, not contenders.
  • VANDERBILT +23.5 over #4 LSU X
    Commodores score enough on Tiger D to cover.
  • #6 OHIO STATE over Miami (OH) +39
    Buckeyes enjoy rent-a-win.
  • #17 TEXAS A&M over #8 Auburn +3.5 X
    Tigers overrated.
  • #9 FLORIDA over Tennessee - no spread
    Don't know why there's no point spread for this game.
  • #10 Utah over SOUTHERN CAL +3.5 X
    Utes have footage on USC backup QB from previous week.
  • #13 WISCONSIN over #11 Michigan +3.5
    Badgers too strong at home for Wolverines
  • #12 TEXAS over Oklahoma State +5.5
    Longhorns tired of losing to Cowboys.
  • #15 Central Florida over PITTSBURGH +12 X
    I'm tired of getting burned picking against UCF.
  • #16 Oregon over STANFORD +10.5
    Herbert has field day against Cardinal secondary.
  • #19 WASHINGTON STATE over UCLA +18.5 X
    Hard to have any confidence in the Bruins.
  • #20 BOISE STATE over Air Force +8
    Broncos aerial attack downs Falcons.
  • Old Dominion +29.5 over #21 VIRGINIA
    Cavaliers plod to victory but don't cover.
  • #22 Washington over BRIGHAM YOUNG +6
    Huskies defend pride of Pac-12 in Provo.
  • #23 California +2 over OLE MISS
    Bears defense sparks road win.
  • #24 ARIZONA STATE over Colorado +7.5 X
    Herm Edwards continues to surprise as college coach.
  • #25 TCU over Southern Methodist +9.5 X
    Frogs celebrate entry into Top 25.
  • South Carolina +9.5 over MISSOURI X
    Gamecocks rebound from Bama loss.
  • MISSISSIPPI STATE over Kentucky +6
    Bulldogs backup QB outduels Wildcats' backup QB.
  • ARKANSAS over San Jose State +21 X
    Hogs ride euphoria from Colorado State win.

Record after three weeks: 59-45-1

Interesting Numbers
Sacks given up by Utah in three games.
11/1 Turnovers this season by USC/Utah
Utah's record against USC in Los Angeles
Notre Dame's record in its last 19 games against Top Five teams
Minimum number of passing yards by Washington State's Anthony Gordon in the first three games
TD/INT ratio for Oregon QB Justin Herbert in three games
+7 Alabama's turnover margin in three games - second in the nation
13-1 Florida's record against Tennessee the last 14 years
0 INTs by LSU's defense in the first three games
509 Passing yards by Purdue against Vanderbilt two weeks ago
2 Mississippi State's national rank in takeaways with 10
+6 Notre Dame's turnover margin in two games
36 Average minutes TCU has possessed the ball so far
1 Wisconsin's national rank in both 3rd down conversions and third down defense
0 TDs by Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor against Michigan in two games
4 Consecutive times Oklahoma State has beaten Texas
Did You Notice? NFL Week 2
  • This Week's Crazy Stats Game
    First downs: Broncos 27 Bears 18
    Total plays: Broncos 76 Bears 56
    Total yards: Broncos 372 Bears 273
    Yards per play: Broncos 4.9 Bears 4.9
    Possession: Broncos 32:59 Bears 27:01
    Turnovers: Broncos 1 Bears 0
    Score: Bears 16 Broncos 14
  • Scoreless Half
    Kansas City defeated Oakland 28-10. The Raiders scored all their points in the first quarter. The Chiefs scored all their points in the second quarter. The fans who show up to be seen, then leave at halftime, missed nothing substantial. After opening the season with a 24-16 triumph over the Broncos, Derek Carr & Company had to be feeling good about themselves when they jumped to a 10-0 Q1 lead. Then reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes threw for nearly 300y and four TDs in the second quarter. Carr threw consecutive INTs in the second half.
  • At This Rate, He Won't Survive the Season
    In two games against the Saints and Jaguars, Houston QB Deshaun Watson has been sacked 10 times and hit another 18 times. The Texans O-line has been hard hit by injuries. The club acquired LT Laremy Tunsil for the start of the season but he is already lost to an ankle injury.
  • Vikings Fans Not Kissing Cousins
    Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins is in the middle of a fully-guaranteed three-year $84M deal. However, since the start of the 2017 season, Cousins "boasts" the lowest QB rating in the NFL when inside the opponents' 10y line. He's completing less than 45% of his passes and averaging 1.6 ypa. In the 21-116 loss to Green Bay Sunday, Kirk completed only 14-of-32 passes for 230y. He threw two INTs, including a pick in the EZ when driving for the potential go-ahead score late in Q4.
  • Men of Tin in Pittsburgh
    Like the Saints, the Steelers lost their starting QB Sunday. Unlike Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger will miss the rest of the season as a result of surgery on his right elbow. But Coach Mike Tomlin has another major concern going forward. After giving up 33 points to the Patriots Week 1, the Steelers gave up another 28 to the Seahawks in the two-point loss.
  • Who Dak Leading Cowboys to Super Bowl?
    After an outstanding career at Boise State, QB Kellen Moore had a brief NFL experience, seeing action in only three games with Dallas in 2015. But now, at age 30, he's the new offensive coordinator for the Cowboys. And he's having an immediate impact on Dak Prescott. In his first three years with Cowboys, Dak's highest QBR was 78.8 in his rookie season. But after two games this year, Prescott's QBR is 96.2. He's completed 82.3% of his passes, throwing 7 TDs against only one INT. Not surprisingly, Dallas is 2-0 after scoring 66 points against division rivals Giants and Redskins. Since they play the hapless Dolphins this week, the Cowboys are sure to be 3-0 for the first time in Coach Jason Garrett's ten-year coaching tenure.
  • What Might Have Been for the Bears
    With the second pick of the 2017 draft, Chicago took QB Mitch Trubisky when they could have had Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes.

Question of the week: Which coach said about his team Sunday, "I thought they played hard for 60 minutes. We were there for half, maybe two and a half quarters, and then we just couldn't get anything going offensively."

Intriguing Numbers - NFL Week 2
120 Rushing yards by Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson - the most for a player who threw for more than 250y in the same game
57 Rushing yards by the Saints against the Rams
3/14 Third down conversions by the Broncos against the Bears
2011 Last time a QB, Cam Newton, passed for 300+y in each of his first two NFL starts before Kyler Murray did it for the Cardinals.
102-10 Combined score in the Dolphins two losses to open the season
0 Sacks by Von Miller and the Broncos defense in the first two games
1999 Last previous season that Denver started 0-2
2 Tackles by Houston DE J.J. Watt in the first two games, both in Week 2 after being shut out of the box score by the Saints in Game 1
8 Consecutive regular season games that Houston has allowed at least four sacks of DeShaun Watson, tying an NFL record.
28 Q4 comebacks engineered by QB Matthew Stafford after the Lions beat the Chargers 13-10
1989 Last time before this year that the 49ers started a season with two road wins
22 Consecutive games the Chiefs have scored at least 25 points - something that had never been accomplished in 100 NFL seasons
5 Missed kicks by 46-year-old Colts K Adam Vinatieri's two games into his 24th NFL season
Did You Notice? NCAA Week 3
  • Minnesota 35 Georgia Southern 32
    Maybe LSU's 55-3 victory over GSU Week 1 was not so ho-hum after all. The Gophers scored a TD with 0:13 left to pull out the victory at home. The Eagles were aided by a 77y TD return of a blocked FG.
  • ACC Ineptitude
    One commentator facetiously said that the second-best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference is Notre Dame. The Irish have a contract with the ACC that allows the Irish to compete in all sports except football but requires ND to play five ACC football teams each year through 2037. In the meantime, Clemson has sucked the life out of the conference in football, just as Alabama has done to some extent in the SEC. The Tigers are #1 in all the polls but only one other ACC is in the top 25 - Virginia, which is #21 in the AP and #22 in the Coaches Poll. Notre Dame is #7 in both. The ineptitude of the conference is best illustrated by Georgia Tech's home loss to Citadel, which had lost its first two games to other FCS foes - Towson and Elon. The victory was the Bulldogs' first ever over an ACC foe. In other action Saturday, Virginia Tech huffed and puffed to defeat Furman 24-17 while Les Miles's Kansas Jayhawks, fresh off a 12-7 home loss to Coastal Carolina of the Sun Belt Conference, traveled to Boston College and thumped the Eagles 48-24. N. C. State lost to West Virginia 44-27.
  • Saints Not the Only Victims of Bad Officiating
    The ending of Michigan State's home loss to Arizona State provided a comedy of officiating errors. Since the game was in East Lansing, the Pac-12 provided the officials. With 0:11 remaining, Michigan State lined up for a FG from the ASU 24 to tie the game at 10. The kick was good, but a review revealed that the Spartans had 12 men on the field. On the rekick from 5y further back, Matt Coghlin missed badly, hooking the ball to the left. Then Sunday, the Pac-12 issued a statement saying its officials had missed the fact that an ASU rusher on the rekick had taken a running start and leapt over the kicking team's line in an attempt to block the kick. A 15y penalty should have been assessed - which would have been shortened to half the distance to the goal - and an automatic first down awarded. MSU would then have been provided with one untimed down. Kudos to the Pac-12 for admitting the mistake by its officials, although the Michigan State team, coaching staff, and fans now feel even worse about the loss. Watch highlights of the game, including the final kicks ...
  • Iowa State Literally Beat Itself
    Iowa State
    hosted cross-state rival Iowa in the annual CyHawk game Saturday. The game was delayed twice for nearly three hours because of lightning. Then lightning struck the Cyclones in the final minutes to seal their fifth straight loss to the Hawkeyes. Trailing 18-17, ISU faced a 4th & 13 at the Iowa 39 with 2:13 left in the game. But Brock Purdy's pass fell incomplete. So the only chance the Cyclones had was to stop Iowa and force a punt. And they did just that, although they had to use up two timeouts to stop the clock after runs. So the Hawkeyes punted on 4th & 13 at their 36 with 1:29 on the clock. Datrone Young moved into position to catch the punt only to be run into by his own blocker. Iowa recovered at the 22 and ran out the clock.
    Watch the punt collision ...
  • You Can't Make One Yard, Coach?
    The media was all over Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi following his club's 17-10 loss to archrival Penn State. Down a TD and facing 4th-and-Goal at the PSU 1 with five minutes remaining, Narduzzi opted to try a gimme FG. The strategy backfired when Alex Kessman's kick clanged off the left upright. Starting from the 20, the Nittany Lions used up nearly three minutes off the clock before having to punt. The Panthers couldn't get across midfield for the remainder of the game. Narduzzi explained his reasoning this way. "You need two scores to win the football game, unless you guys are playing for overtime. We're trying to win the football game."
  • Unbloody Kansas
    Friday night, Les Miles's beleaguered Kansas Jayhawks, reeling from a 12-7 home loss to Coastal Carolina of the Sun Belt last week, traveled to Beantown where they surprised Boston College 48-24. LSU fans will recall that Les's Tigers rarely lost two games in a row. The victory broke KU's incredible 48-game road losing streak to Power Five teams. Then Saturday Kansas State went to Starkville Saturday and upended the Bulldogs 31-24 to gain revenge for last year's defeat in Manhattan. It was K-State's first nonconference road victory over a Power Five opponent since 2011.
Interesting Numbers
Consecutive victories by Ohio State over Indiana
16-0 Nick Saban's record against his former assistants after defeating Will Muschamp of South Carolina
Last time both Kansas and Kansas State won road games against FBS teams on the same weekend.
5-6 Pac-12's record this year against Mountain West and AAC teams
Yards rushing by QB Jalen Hurts on Oklahoma's opening drive against UCLA
Passing yards by true freshman QBs against Stanford the pst two weeks (USC's Kedon Slovis and Central Florida's Dillon Gabriel)
66.5 Maryland's points per game the first two weeks of this season
13 Maryland's points in its loss to Temple Saturday
14 Consecutive games in which Houston QB D'Eriq King has passer or rushed for a TD, tying Tim Tebow's FBS record
4 Blocked punts by Nebraska and Northern Illinois in the first half of their game
4 Personal foul penalties by Florida State in Q4 against Virginia
3 Wins by Eastern Michigan over Big Ten teams the last three seasons, which is one more than Illinois and the same number as Rutgers in the same period
3-0 Minnesota's record despite trailing in all three games with six minutes and trailing in the final minute of the past two games
1983 Last time Auburn had three players rush for 100+y in a game before doing so against Kent State
62/17 Auburn's run/pass ratio against Kent State
1-10 Notre Dame's conversion rate on third down against New Mexico
5-5 Notre Dame's conversion rate on fourth down against New Mexico

Baseball Short Story
Family Guy
"Family Guy," Carroll Rogers Walton, Memories and Dreams: Official Publication of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Spring 2018)
Chipper Jones relishes the chance to celebrate Hall of Fame election with his mom and dad.
Young Chipper Jones
For Larry Wayne Jones Jr., baseball was always about family. Now, as a Hall of Famer, the Atlanta legend known as "Chipper" will celebrate the game's greatest honor with those who made it possible. "I can't wait for my dad to go up and rub elbows with the best in the game," Jones said. "He deserves it more than I do, for all that he and Mom did for me growing up. That'll be a pretty awesome family trip."
In January 2018, Jones became just the eighth third baseman voted into the Hall of Fame. In his first year eligible, he was named on 97.2 percent of the ballots to lead the 2018 class. He'll be the sixth Braves legend inducted in the past five years, joining former teammates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, along with manager Bobby Cox and GM John Schuerholz.
"The second that phone rang and I saw the 212 (area code) that it was from New York, I immediately got a lump in my throat," said Jones of the Jan. 24 call that informed him of his Hall of Fame election. When he hung up, Jones hugged and kissed his wife, Taylor, then turned toward his parents, who were standing on the opposite side of the kitchen. He locked eyes with his father; both of them already starting to well up. "When Dad and I hugged, I kind of let loose," said Jones, who managed to get out three words. "I told him, 'We did it.'"
Jones' father taught him strategy and the finer points of his swing. His mother, Lynne, a professional equestrian, shaped Jones' mental approach, preaching confidence every time he walked to the plate. He drew on both throughout his 19 years with the Braves, 22 including his time in the minors.
"He's been so laser-focused from the age of 4 years old on being a baseball player, and being one of the best baseball players," Lynne Jones said, "'Just good' wasn't good enough for him. He really strove to be the best that he could make himself."
Jones prided himself on being a .300 hitter and backed it up by finishing his career with a .303 average. He hit .300 from both sides of the plage ... to join Frankie Frisch as the only switch hitters with at least 5,000 plate appearance to do that. Interestingly, Jones figures he never went more than a dozen at-bats without a hit for the first 10 to 12 years of his career. "It's hard not to go in prolonged slumps, but you can do things to prevent 0-for-20s, 2-for-30s," he said. "I didn't have many of those over the course of my career because the game didn't stop for me at the end of the game. I was ... constantly thinking what I could do better. A lot of times I wouldn't have been able to go home and go to sleep if I didn't get into the cage and figure it out."
His teammates say that sense of urgency showed up in Jones' preparation as well. Maddux remembers being on the team bus in Milwaukee one day when somebody asked Jones who was pitching for the Brewers in that series. "He always knew the rotation for the series," Maddux said. "Nobody had ever heard of the guy pitching the second game. But Chipper goes, 'Oh yeah, we faced him in Spring Training. He came in in the fifth or six inning. He's got a little slider; his fastball's pretty straight.' He remembered two months ago in Spring Training facing this guy," Maddux added. "That was his edge. He was a little bit more prepared than most of the hitters."
Jones batted third as a rookie on the Braves' World Series championship team in 1995. He immediately earned the respect of veterans hitting behind him, including Fred McGriff and David Justice, by smashing w3 homers. It was his first of 14 straight seasons with 20 or more HRs. "He wasn't afraid of the moment," Justice says.
Jones proved it time and again throughout his career, starting in that rookie season when he hit a pair of HRs in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Rockies. He then secured the series-opening win with a diving play at 3B.
Four years later, in the prime of his career, Jones homered four times in a pivotal three-game September series against the Mets, giving the Braves a lead each time. That series sweep helped Atlanta nail down an eighth straight division title and propelled Jones to NL MVP honors, having hit a career-high 24 homers. Later in his career, after his power started to diminish and nagging injuries began to mount, Jones won a batting title. At age 36 in 2008, he proved he could still master the cat-and-mouse game by hitting .364.
Former Braves infielder Mark DeRosa remembers sitting in the dugout one night in Montreal as a rookie when Jones came back in after rounding out. DeRosa said Jones vowed that if he got another 3-2 changeup late in the game, he was "going deep." "He got that 3-2 changeup again and hit it dead center. We ended up winning game," DeRosa said. "I just remember being like, 'Wow, I need to get much better.'"
"Against most hitters, if it worked in April, it's going to work in June," Maddux said. "But not necessarily with Chipper. If you got him out a certain way, he had the ability to sit on it, look for it and try to take that pitch away from a P. And he would do damage with it, not just take it. A lot of guys will wait for the pitch they want to hit, where Chipper was good enough to hit the pitcher's pitch."
Building and Rebuilding LSU
How the SEC Became Goliath, Ray Glier (2012)
There was a fringe benefit of playing for LSU coach Nick Saban, something valuable to a couple of his players in addition to winning games and getting trained for the NFL. The coach had a pond with fish and he seemed much too busy to snatch those fish out of the water himself. So Mike Clayton, an LSU wide receiver, and Marcus Spears, an LSU defensive end, would make their way around the back of Saban's big house on Highland Road in Baton Rouge and drop lines into the coach's pond and fish. ...
Clayton was from south Baton Rouge and Spears was from the Bottom, a poorer area of Baton Rouge, and the idea of fishing at the manor of an LSU coach seemed so preposterous if you understood the history between south Baton Rouge, the Bottom, and LSU. Clayton and Spears would never have fished in the pond of an LSU football coach before 2000. Peed in it? Yes, they would have done that.
LSU was mistrusted in some parts of town. The football coach represented a hierarchy at LSU that did not blend with south Baton Rouge, Clayton said. The coaches were not racist, but their hands seemed tied by politics. Was it accurate? Were there politics? It doesn't matter. That's the way the Claytons ... saw it and that's what mattered.
When LSU coach Gerry DiNardo, who was regarded as a skilled recruiter, did not show any interest in recruiting Mike Clayton, a star WR from south Baton Rouge, the rift between the neighborhood and the LSU campus grew wider. The Claytons had issues with the politics at LSU, which is to say they thought a good-old-boy element still lurked there when Mike was met with a cold shoulder by DiNardo. If Florida State and Bobby Bowden could recruit him hard, why couldn't his hometown school? The Claytons thought the worst of LSU.

L-R: Michael Clayton, Marcus Spears, Nick Saban
When DiNardo was fired and Saban was hired in late November 1999, LSU began to recruit Clayton, but Saban started the chase from a hole. The hardest thing was not getting in the front door; it was getting through the barbed wire of emotions. Clayton lived in a nice neighborhood with manicured yards, modest but neatly kept homes. What the heck was so objectionable in this neighborhood that it took LSU so long to get in line and recruit a star?
Clayton, who attended Christian Life Academy, already had his bag half packed for Florida State. The heck with LSU. The kids from the Bottom or south Baton Rouge never thought they got a fair shake at LSU, so they were always looking elsewhere first, Clayton said.
"I never got one letter until Saban and his staff got on campus," Clayton said. "Jimbo [Fisher] would come watch me play basketball, and I would show off for him."
The Claytons let Saban in the front door. "The neighborhood was going, 'What are you doing talkin' to LSU? You know how things can go there,'" Clayton said. "A lot of guys just went to Alcorn, or one of the other HBCUs. We saw too many of our guys go to LSU and then transfer."
Saban, who was in his first season as head coach at LSU, made his pitch to the Claytons. He was earnest, like a man selling Bibles out of the trunk of his car. He talked about college being a forty-year decision, not a four-year decision. He talked about life after football. You could go to your hometown school and come back after the NFL and own shares in a bank, own a clothing store, own real estate. There would be roots.
When the coach was finished vending LSU, Milton Clayton, Mike's father, tried to put his feelings in a gentlemanly sort of way to Saban: "There are politics at LSU, Coach. Things go on. Sometimes the best players don't play."
"There will be no politics," Saban said. "Not as long as I'm here."
Well, how many coaches had said that before only to let politics creep into the locker room, into the meeting room, into the coach's ear? A kid from the South Baton Rouge Rams, among the elite of the Pop Warner football programs, was just asking to be trashed if he believed this blather.
"Don't be sorry, Mike," some of the neighbors told him. "Go to Florida State, go to Miami, go anyplace but there." Years of mistrust were barking back at Clayton, and perceptions are hard to tear down. LSU had been one of the last SEC schools to embrace black players. The Claytons were not indicting the whole campus, but they were suspicious, as black folks have learned with justification to be suspicious.
Many LSU fans will likely scoff at Clayton's assertion that as late as 2000 racial prejudices affected the makeup of the Tigers' rosters. Clayton scoffs back a those who think sports is color-blind and that winning overrides all racism.
"Just the other day I'm on the golf course in Tampa, and this white guy rolls by in his cart and says to his friend, 'Hey, look at that nigger playing golf,'" Clayton said. "That's the day we still live in. Some people look at color. It's still not gone." ...
Clayton scratched Miami off his recruiting list because on his visit there with Spears ..., they found South Beach too raucous and too tempting. "All kinds of stuff was going on there," Clayton said."
There was still time to decide before the February 8 signing date, but Clayton thought maybe he should give Saban a chance. Clayton liked Saban, the son of a gasoline-station operator from West Virginia. Florida State was still Clayton's top choice, but a window had opened for LSU, or was it a hole opening in a fence that had been built up between a neighborhood and a school?
On the night of December 29, 2000, Clayton and Spears ... were sitting in a restaurant in Dallas before they were to play in a high school all-American game. On the restaurant's television, LSU was playing Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
A black QB, not a white QB, flashed across the screen and was making plays. Rohan Davey was taking snaps ahead of Josh Booty, the white QB, a Louisiana legend from Evangel Christian. Davey led the Tigers to a win with a strong second-half performance.
Clayton and Spears looked at each other. "What just happened?" Maybe Saban could override the politics, after all. A black QB was allowed to be the star of the game they were watching on TV. It had happened before at LSU with Herb Tyler (1995-98), a black QB who shone, but Clayton saw a black QB in competition with a white QB. The black QB scooted ahead; he was allowed to scoot ahead.
In the Dallas restaurant, the Baton Rouge boys starteds doing something preposterous. They started recruiting for LSU. A south Baton Rouge kid and a kid from the Bottom, who would have stuck their fingers in a light socket before selling for LSU, became salesmen for the Tigers. Perhaps the place wasn't so bad at all. They worked on the high school players in Dallas at the all-star game who had still not made up their minds where to go to college. In all, Clayton said, six players in that game went to LSU.
"He meant what he said about there not being politics anymore," Clayton said of Saban. "You could tell on the television that night. What Rohan did changed some people's minds."
Spears flipped to LSU. ... "It was, who is your daddy? Who did your daddy play for? How much money did they give?" said Spears. "Nick got there and he could have cared less whose daddy played there." ...
In 2003, LSU (13-1) won a national championship. That 2001 class - headlined by Clayton and Spears, two Baton Rouge stars who had sworn they would not play for the Tigers - was the core of the first LSU team to win a title since 1958.

About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a Football Magazine five or six times a year with stories from the past and a periodic Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a Basketball Magazine.

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