We have got conference champions. Shout out to Utah, UTSA, Baylor, Utah State, Louisiana, Northern Illinois, Cincinnati, Alabama, Pitt and Michigan. Here's the reality everyone is going to skip the step of celebrating the tremendous team accomplishment of winning a league title to go to the playoff, but not us. Not at all. We love to see it.
Very dope to win a league title and as more people center the playoff and brush past that accomplishment, I definitely want to be someone who acknowledges the success. No small feat to win a conference. Hell, just playing for a chance to win is more than most teams ever hit on.
So, if you listen to me on radio or podcasts this week, listen for the times I stop and recognize conference champs before I talk about the playoff. It is going to happen.
Regarding the Kenny Pickett, fake slide. Did not realize, 1-how many people discovered it late, 2-how it is such a big deal to people who usually don't care about defense.
He did it, it was cool and fun, and as a defensive guy, it does hamstring you when the whole mantra preached is, "he gave himself up." I'm not tripping off it though, until it becomes an actual issue, not a one-off, no need to be as up in arms as everyone seems to be.
We have the playoff field. 1-Bama, 2-Michigan, 3-UGA, 4-Cincy. Over the course of the next few weeks we'll peel back the layers of what these games look like, good for Cincy to get into the mix and have a shot. Almost feels like if you let them in a year ago you don't have to deal with this expansion mess that is going to really loosen the hold the P5 has on the sport.
We also have our Saturdays back, which means good long cooking, starting with chili. Let's kickoff the series with first down, baby!!
1st Down: Nick Saban is Smart
Everyone views college football as this monolith. Good coaches vs Bad coaches. Spread vs West Coast vs Defensive minded vs Zone vs Man and all that jazz. Nick Saban is all of that rolled into one. He'll do what it takes to win. Anything. If it means special teams, he'll do it. If it means scoring 50, he'll do it. If it means playing a game 13-10, he'll do it. Whatever it takes.
Alabama's 2nd touchdown was the epitome of a smart guy finding an edge and doing what he needed to win. Bama got Jordan Davis, largely lauded as an elite NFL prospect and Top DT/NT in the game, in the game vs 11 personnel. They went tempo, didn't substitute and on the TD pass Davis is so tired from playing consecutive plays he can't rush and Bama handles him easily as a non-threat as Bryce Young throws a TD.
The Tide put the pedal to the metal. Jameson Williams challenged UGA's secondary vertically. 11 personnel packages with 3 different looks kept the Dawgs on their toes. 11 with Randolph means run. 11 with Billingsley means pass. 11 with Latu means anything goes.
Outside of the tipped ball saving a first down, Nakobe Dean was not a factor. Bama stretched UGA wide and then pushed vertical to make Lewis Cine cover deep and dare them to try to add bodies closer to the line.
The scary part? Saban isn't done. Now that he's smoked the team everyone decided was unbeatable, he'll go back and self-scout to figure out where they can improve and how to be better when he plays UGA for a title in January.
2nd Down: If You Build It, Sometimes They Don't Come
Oklahoma State has a defense that I love. That defense played its ass off. They weren't perfect but they played balls to the wall football for 60 minutes against Baylor in Jerry's World. A scoreless second half after adjusting to a very good initial gameplan from Baylor.
This Jim Knowles defense did their job. They showed up.
But showing up doesn't matter when your offense is feeding the other team's machine. And that's the conundrum for defense forward teams. Your margin for error is small. Ask Georgia about it? When the defense couldn't get stops and offense needed to have their back, they offered up a whimper and a punt. Ask Iowa, who could have been in the blowout of a ball game if they just got some points from that offense.
Building a defense is great. It is my favorite part of football. However, just because you build it, doesn't mean the offense will come, too. Clemson's got a full season of experiencing that woe.
3rd Down: Call To Action
A lot happened this past weekend that I really think is noteworthy:
-Baylor's use of the TE early to create space
-Baylor's spacing to stop Ok State from tango'ing on a crosser
-Iowa's sinking to grab interceptions from a confused McNamara
-Darnell Washington's giant TD to start the game
-95 for UGA, Devonte Wyatt, becoming one of my favorite players because he refused to be pigeonholed as a space-eater/run-stuffer and played through fatigue.
-Uncalled chop block on first Jameson Williams TD
-Pickett fake slide to score
-Utah State's pressure packages to flush SDSU and not allow plays to develop
-App State going for 2 down 8 with 5 minutes to play
-Utah skull dragging Oregon again and how do you fix that if you're the Ducks?
Point being I have a lot of notes stuff that I want to get to and a lot of it does involve some drawing. Now that the season is done, I want to know what you all would like to see on this platform. I am going to be going live on FB a few times to talk title game match-ups, but also would love to do Q&A or perhaps some deep dive audio or text talks with people to post here as well.
So 3rd down, the money down, is about what you want? Let me know in the comments.
4th Down: Chili Tips For Y'all
This is not a chili recipe. I don't think you can have a sure thing chili recipe. Chili has a soul. Chili is an evolving picture based upon what you pick up at the grocer, how your pantry is looking and how exciting or adventurous you want to be. However, I do have some staples in my chili, especially my "First Free Saturday" chili, that I just cannot wait to get to now that the season is over.
-Fresh Ground Chiles
Chocolate, coffee, dark beer all add great depth to the chili. A good dark chocolate brings a creaminess and a bittersweetness that stands up to the spicy kick of the chiles and overall spice. Coffee, preferably fresh ground, can be brewed and used as a mellow flavor or added and steeped in the actual chili for a real punch. Dark beer like a Guinness, or whatever weird craft you're into, helps bring a richness as well.
Use them together, pick one and run with it. They all add layers of flavor depth to chili.
Fresh chiles, roasted garlic and cheesecloth. Those are the next three elements that I truly Stan. Depending on the heat you want, skip the powdered and opt to grind your own chile de arbol, New Mexico chiles, guajillos really any of the dried chiles work. The point is grind those whether it is in your blender, your grinder or food processor. You're going to get real flavor instead of old powdered chile powder. A quick, easy move to add more flavor.
Roasted garlic is a staple in my red sauce for pizza and pasta. It is also a staple for chili. Really simple to do, slice the lid off the whole fist of garlic, drizzle olive oil over it and sprinkle salt then wrap in foil. Put in the toaster oven, the oven or on the grill and cook it off until soft. It squeezes out like toothpaste after you left it cool and then you can add that in, with its robust flavor, to add more of that pungent garlic punch to the chili.
Cheesecloth is my most underrated but often used kitchen accoutrement. I love the taste of fresh herbs and spices in my cooking. I hate the feel of small particles in an otherwise smooth sauce, or in this case a chunky chili. Huge difference between a meaty, hearty chili and getting a piece of rosemary or oregano on your tongue or between your teeth.
Enter cheesecloth. I wrap my herbs, including the bay leaf, in cheesecloth. Tie with some kitchen string and then use the butt of my knife to bruise them up in the cloth before putting them into the pot. You get the same flavors and rich, developed taste, without the small bits floating around.
When it comes to meat, I like to mix it up. There's chicken chili, turkey chili, beef chili, pork chili. A lot of chilis. We all know GVO=Good Vibes Only and GTL=Gym. Tan. Laundry.
When it comes to my favorite chilis I am GGL.
Good, GOOD Life, but more importantly Ground. Grilled. Links. That's right, I like to go three different forms/textures of meat in there. Ground beef or pork or chicken or sausage. Grilled steak or thighs or even smoked butt. Links of spicy sausage, andouille or homemade linked sausage when I've got time.
Three different textures bringing a lot to the party.
The ground is a consistency in every bite thing. Browned and then added to the mix it has that classic chili uniform bite and seasoned taste. The grilled gives you some smokiness and a toothsomeness that I enjoy. There's a snap to the links from the casings that let those flavors really pop when you get one of those in a spoonful.
You'll get ground in every bit and some bites you get a piece of a link, some you'll get something grilled or, if you're lucky, you'll get all three in one.
Thanks for reading. Tell a friend. We are doing hardcore "First Free Friday" Chili next week and on Wednesday we have two recipes dropping, wings and smoked chicken thigh pitas. Drop anything you like in the comments regarding the playoff, teams' performances or questions about cooking. Cheers.