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TRips: Monday morning thoughts

Random thoughts and observations on a Monday morning:

If hiring a Nick Saban was easy, Alabama wouldn't have been in the market for one in 2007.

*Among other issues brought on by the dynastic run Alabama football currently finds itself on, the success the Crimson Tide has enjoyed under head coach Nick Saban has created a nightmare for SEC athletic directors charged with making coaching hires.

Fans of schools (yes, we're looking at you, Tennessee) who fail to land Saban's perceived equivalent don't want to hear about minor obstacles like NCAA probation, a limited recruiting base and the fact that good ol' state U. is hiring its third coach in five years.

Here's what those who suffer from Saban Syndrome fail to remember: Alabama was in the very same position just a few years ago. Plagued by NCAA sanctions and a couple of good-timing head coaches, the Crimson Tide went through four head coaches between 1997-2006 before it finally got around to landing Saban in 2007.

And if not for a fortunate chain of events, including one West By God Virginian's decision to stay home, which paved the way for another to make his way to Tuscaloosa, the number might be at six right now.

*Grading the SEC football hires:

Arkansas: B+
Bret Bielema's ground and pound approach on offense should give the Razorbacks a better chance of hanging in with Alabama. While it'll be interesting to see how well Bielema connects with recruits, it's not like Bobby Petrino had the nation's top prospects coming to Fayetteville by the busload.

Auburn: C+
Apparently, the Tigers' were too far removed from their 2010 national championship to give Gene Chizik another year, but not so far removed that they couldn't bring back Gus Malzahn for the top job. The good news for Malzahn is that expectations at Auburn are at a thirty-year low.

Kentucky: C
The Brothers Stoops are 1-1 as head coaches, with Bob getting the W at Oklahoma and Mike taking the L at Arizona. The hope is that Mark will use his ties to the region to help attract recruits from Ohio. One problem: Rosters of successful SEC teams aren't exactly littered with Buckeye State talent.

Tennessee: C+
The hiring of Butch Jones has a Dennis Franchione-to-Alabama feel to to it. Well, except for the fact that Fran actually built programs at New Mexico and Texas Christian before making the jump to the SEC. Like every other hire on this list, staff hirings will make or break the guy at the top of the command chain.

*While I like the hire of Willie Taggart by South Florida, I'm still wondering what happened to WKU over the final month of the season. After getting off to a 5-1 start, the Hilltoppers lost four of their last six, including three out of four at home.

*If the sight of Army senior quarterback Trent Steelman sobbing uncontrollably following the Cadets' eleventh consecutive loss to Navy Saturday didn't impact you on an emotional level then your heart probably pumps jello.

Alabama and Notre Dame will play in college football's championship game on Jan. 7 but for those who actually play in the games, it doesn't get any bigger than the one they played in Philadelphia over the weekend.

*A week has come and gone and a buddy of mine who played linebacker at Georgia a few decades ago still can't get over the lack of adjustments the Bulldogs' defensive staff made to answer Alabama's rushing attack in the SEC Championship Game.

After watching the game again, it's hard to argue with his viewpoint. UGA pretty much lined up in its base fronts and didn't do much in the way of slanting or firing linebackers and/or defensive backs. It doesn't matter how many NFL prospects a defense has; if a front seven gives Alabama's offensive line and tight ends stationary targets to hit, they'll do so with devastating effectiveness.

*Here's all you need to know about who runs college football these days: Of the 35 bowl games that will be televised this postseason, 33 of them will air on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2.

*Redshirt freshman or no, Johnny Manziel was deserving of the Heisman Trophy; just like Herschel Walker was as a true freshman in 1980.

*Good guy award for 2012 goes to Washington State athletic director Bill Moos. After relieving the previous football WSU coaching staff of their duties a year ago, Moos reassigned former UA assistant Dave Ungerer, who was battling cancer at the time, to another position within the department so that Ungerer would continue to have access to Wazzu's health insurance plan. At last check, Ungerer was cancer-free and looking to return to coaching in 2013.

*What's up with AD's putting the "previous head coaching experience required" restriction on themselves when looking to make a hire?

Being new to the position hasn't seemed to bother Stanford's David Shaw, Florida's Will Muschamp, Oregon's Chip Kelly, Georgia's Mark Richt, Boise State's Chris Petersen, Louisville's Charlie Strong, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald.

Meanwhile, Skip Holtz, Tom O'Brien, Derek Dooley, Bobby Petrino and Gene Chizik, all of whom had head coaching experience prior to their most recent stops, are out of work.

*In making SEC stops at Alabama, Mississippi State, South Carolina and now Auburn, defensive coordinator-for-hire Ellis Johnson has officially achieved Joe Lee Dunn status.

Speaking of Dunn, as the defensive boss at Division II McMurray University in Abilene, Tex., the man who despises socks as much as he does spread offenses is still dialing up blitzes

*As uninspired as Anthony Grant's basketball team looked in a 76-71 loss to Dayton, it could be worse. Just ask Tennessee fans, who saw their team fall short of the 40-point mark in back-to-back losses to Georgetown and Virginia last week.

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