With just weeks until the kickoff of the college football season, fans are up to their necks in team season previews, Heisman watch lists, bowl projections, and thousands of other articles that attempt to hash out what the season will hold. Unfortunately, a few personalities will use this time to rile up passionate fan bases by making ridiculous claims. That’s the only real explanation for this:
.@ESPN_Colin just predicted Tennessee to upset Alabama on Oct. 25.
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) August 5, 2014
The audio is available here, and he begins talking about Alabama around the 24:20 mark.
“It’s not that Nick (Saban) won’t win another title, but it’s gonna be tougher now… He seized a real opportunity…I think the SEC right now is thornier and tougher than it’s ever been, and when Tennessee, in a year, gets going, watch out. The undefeated years for everybody are done.”
At the 32 minute mark, Cowherd gives a “shoutout” to die-hard Alabama fan and infamous Finebaum caller Phyllis, and goes through a few games on the Tide’s schedule, before dropping the Tennessee bombshell:
“Hey Phyllis, October 4th at Mississippi, win. October 11th at Arkansas, win. October 18th, host Texas A&M, win. October 25th at Tennessee…LOSS. Hey Phyllis! That Tennessee offensive line is going to get its act together somewhere in October. You’re gonna be on a six or seven game winning streak, Phyllis. At Tennessee, Alabama gets upset in overtime Phyllis, and I want you to call Paul, and apologize for those TERRIBLE things you said about him. My children cried for months, Phyllis. Seacrest out.”
Tennessee may beat Alabama this year. College football is unpredictable, and upsets happen all the time. It wouldn’t be the craziest thing that’s happened, by any stretch. However, based on what we know about both teams on August 5, to predict that a Tennessee program that is in rebuilding mode will beat an Alabama team that should be a top ten squad at worst, is pretty ridiculous. Of course, Cowherd has nothing to lose by making this prediction. Tennessee fans will hail him as an early believer, Alabama fans will go crazy and flood Paul Finebaum’s airwaves, and both of those things are a win for him. If Alabama wins, as expected, he was “just going out on a limb” and having fun with a specific caller on Finebaum’s show. If Tennessee does pull an upset, he’ll likely prop this up as an example of his college football acumen.
While ridiculous claims by writers and radio hosts will always be a small part of sports, it is always unfortunate that stories like this will dominate the headlines when so many others spend hours upon hours generating great previews backed up by statistical analysis and facts, all things that are completely absent from any August prediction that Tennessee will end Alabama’s undefeated season.