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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Alabama without a Doubt - Larkin elected to Hall - Final College Football AP Poll

Larkin elected to Hall
NEW YORK (AP)—Barry Larkin joined with Cal Ripken Jr. in transforming shortstop into a position for powerful bats, not just great gloves. Now he’s following Ripken into the Hall of Fame.
The former Cincinnati Reds shortstop was chosen on 495 of 573 ballots (86 percent) in voting announced Monday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, well above the necessary 75 percent.
“When I think of Barry, I think of a steady, smart and terrific all-around player both at shortstop and at the plate,” Ripken said. “I wish we had played in the same league, but we were in 11 All-Star Games together and I always enjoyed being around him and talking baseball.”
Barry Larkin was voted an All-Star in 12 of his 19 seasons with the Reds.
“I’m just incredibly, incredibly moved by this whole experience and so humbled by the experience and so excited about being the newest member of the Hall of Fame,” he said on a conference call.
His election came in the final year before the Steroids Era becomes the main focus in balloting.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling are eligible for the first time next year.
Jack Morris followed Larkin with 382 votes (67 percent), missing by 48 votes on his
13th try but up sharply from 54 percent last year. Morris, the ace of three World Series winners, finished with 254 victories and was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s. His 3.90 ERA, however, is higher than that of any Hall of Famer.
He has two chances left on the BBWAA ballot. Gil Hodges (63.4 percent in 1983) has the highest percentage among players who never gained election.
Playing from 1986-04—all with his hometown Reds—Larkin hit .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases. A 12-time All-Star, he won the 1995 NL MVP award, nine Silver Slugger trophies and three Gold Gloves. He helped the Reds win the 1990 World Series and in 1996 became the first shortstop to have 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.
“Barry distinguished himself as a tremendous leader and a dominating player,” Reds great Johnny Bench said. “Winning a World Series and an MVP plus Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards puts him among the elite players in Reds history.”
Larkin received 52 percent when he appeared on the ballot for the first time in 2010, then got 62 percent last year when he fell 75 votes short. This year, he received the largest single-year percentage increase to gain election since 1948, when pitcher Herb Pennock was elected with 77.7 percent, a year after finishing with 53.4 percent.
Larkin is the 48th Hall of Famer who spent his entire career with one major league team and the third from the Reds, joining Bench and Bid McPhee. He credits Hall of Famer Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion for helping influence his career, and recalled fondly how he learned Spanish to better communicate with his teammates.
“Now he’s with us, another guy in the family,” Perez said.
With no big contenders among those in their first year of eligibility, several holdovers saw increases from last year: Jeff Bagwell (42 percent to 56 percent), Lee Smith (45 to 51), Tim Raines (38 to 49), Alan Trammell (24 to 37) and Edgar Martinez (33 to 37).
Bernie Williams received the most votes (55) among players who were eligible for the first time. Bill Mueller got just four votes and will be dropped in future years, along with Juan Gonzalez (23) and Vinny Castilla (six). Nine voters submitted blank ballots.
Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 19.5 percent in his sixth try, down from 19.8 percent last year and 23.7 percent in 2010—a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.
Rafael Palmeiro, among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, got 72 votes and his percentage increased to 12.6 from 11 last year in his first appearance. Palmeiro received a 10-day suspension in 2005 for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, claiming it was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.
Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP implicated by Jose Canseco in steroids use, received 30 votes last year, just above the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot.
In 2014, the focus will turn to elite pitchers when Greg Maddux (355 wins) and Tom Glavine (305) become eligible. Among pitchers eligible for the Hall, all 20 of the 300-game winners are in.

Alabama proved it's nation's best, but 2011 unsatisfying nonetheless
stewart mandel

NEW ORLEANS -- Alabama had long since put away the game. The Tide were 4:36 away from a national championship whether or not they scored another point. But for their sake, and for college football's sake, Trent Richardson's 34-yard touchdown run to put the final clamps on LSU was absolutely, positively needed.
"That was definitely the most fun touchdown we've ever scored," Alabama tackle Barrett Jones said after his team finished demolishing the previously unblemished Tigers 21-0 to claim its second BCS championship in three years. "After two games of frustration kicking field goals, that's a moment I'll never forget."
There are probably some fans around the country who would like to forget that the 2011 season ever took place. An already frustrating and divisive year ended with a dud of a championship game. And making it all the worse was that for many, this was merely a rerun of the teams' Nov. 5 field-goal fest -- only this time Tide kicker Jeremy Shelley made more attempts (five) than he missed (two), and after 115 combined minutes against each other, someone finally reached the end zone.
But imagine if Alabama and LSU had never met a first time. Imagine if the 11-1 Tide had faced a 13-0 team from another conference on the season's final night, with the exact same result.
Imagine how dazzled we'd be by the clinic that took place.
The Tigers were 13-0. They'd beaten three teams that finished in the Top 10 of the final polls. They averaged 40.1 points against their 12 opponents not named Alabama. The Tide shut them out. LSU had averaged 215.2 rushing yards per game. Alabama held the Tigers to 39 yards on the ground and 92 total.
Meanwhile, Tide quarterback AJ McCarron finished 23-of-34 for 234 yards and no interceptions against a defense fielding a pair of All-America cornerbacks. Just for good measure, Alabama had no turnovers, one penalty and zero return yards allowed against a team that had scored nine defensive or special teams touchdowns.
"It's hard to get any better than that," said safety Mark Barron.
Which leaves us with a very strange dichotomy: Alabama won a national championship in utterly convincing fashion, yet the result was utterly unsatisfying. The Tigers, not the Tide, won the SEC championship. The Tigers, not the Tide, remarkably beat three of the five BCS bowl champions (Oregon, West Virginia and Alabama). The Tigers, not the Tide, won the teams' first meeting, in a road game that at the time was a presumed elimination game.
A set of pollsters and voters afforded Alabama a second shot at LSU, and the Tide couldn't have avenged the previous result more convincingly. But instead of a coronation, doesn't it feel like there should be another step? Wouldn't it be nice to see the Tide move on to another round and, say, beat an elite team from another conference? Doesn't it feel just a little bit ... unfair?
"It's not unfair," said gracious LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers. "We were
second tonight. They were the better team."
Teammate Jordan Jefferson wasn't quite on the same page. Asked if his team deserved a share of the national title, the Tigers quarterback said: "I think we should. We beat Alabama before. We beat eight ranked teams. We accomplished all the things we did to get there."
The truth is Alabama probably was the best team in 2011. As dominant as its defense was Monday night, it was hardly an uncharacteristic showing. Alabama is the first team in 25 years to finish No. 1 nationally in all four major statistical defense categories (total, rushing, passing and scoring defense). It finished the season having allowed just 8.2 points per game. It allowed as many touchdowns -- 10 -- in 13 games as ACC champion Clemson allowed in one night in the Orange Bowl.
Forget just 2011. This Crimson Tide defense will go down as one of the greatest ever fielded.
"I hope people look at us as the No. 1 defense of all time," said cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, one of four Alabama defensive starters (along with Barron and linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower) projected to go in the first round of April's draft.
Yet we never got to see Kirkpatrick and his teammates face off against an explosive offense like Oklahoma State's -- and in the system we have, there was no scenario where we would have. Back on the night of Dec. 3 the debate centered around whether the Cowboys or Tide deserved to face LSU in this game. If the Cowboys (or Boise State, or Oregon) had made a last-second field goal, Alabama probably would not have played for the BCS championship.
But it did, and it delivered a resounding final argument that it -- not LSU, not Oklahoma State, not anyone else -- was the best team of this college football season all along.
The Tide's rub ever since that 9-6 loss was their offense. Specifically, in a sport littered with stars like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, it was hard to envision the unspectacular McCarron leading his team to a national championship.
Monday night, he took home offensive MVP honors.
With the Tigers' own stout defense admirably slowing down star runner Richardson (he had 62 yards on 19 carries prior to his late-game touchdown burst), McCarron assumed the burden of moving the chains. After top receiver Marquis Maze went out with an apparent leg injury on a first-quarter punt return, McCarron connected with three previously unheralded targets, receivers Kevin Norwood (four catches, 78 yards) and Darius Hanks (five catches, 58 yards) and tight end Brad Smelley (seven catches, 39 yards). He took advantage of his protection to stand in the pocket and wait for receivers to get open underneath, and he dared to pick on the Honey Badger, All-America corner Tyrann Mathieu, who allowed several long completions on the outsides of the field.
"The guy's unbelievable," center William Vlachos said of third-year sophomore McCarron. "He wasn't scared at all. He executed against one of the best defenses in the country."
He certainly fared better than his counterpart, Jefferson. In an inglorious ending to a rocky career, the LSU senior was utterly ineffective, completing 11 passes for just 53 yards. The option pitches and keepers that met moderate success in the first Alabama game went nowhere this time. Alabama defenders Upshaw, Hightower, Kirkpatrick and Barron often met him in the backfield, sacking him four times. Any hope that the Tigers, down 9-0 at halftime, would mount a second-half rally went out the window shortly into the third quarter when a rattled Jefferson tossed a hurried shovel pass right into the hands of Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.
"Every game your offense is not perfect," Jefferson said. "Some defenses will have your number, and Alabama's defense had our number tonight."
LSU coach Les Miles earned national coach of the year honors for his team's 13-0 regular season run in part for his seamless handling of a potentially divisive quarterback rotation between Jefferson and fellow senior Jarrett Lee. Monday night, however, Miles faced understandable bewilderment over why he never replaced the hapless Jefferson with Lee, even as 'Bama kept upping its margin.
"We did consider Jarrett Lee," he said. "But we felt like with the pass rush that we were getting that we needed a guy that could move the seat and not sustain that pass rush."
Their teams' fans have pitted Saban, the former LSU coach, and Miles, as rivals. The Mad Hatter earned newfound respect with consecutive upsets in 2010 and '11, but on the second Monday of 2012, Saban hoisted the BCS trophy for the third time in his past seven seasons as a college coach. He won the 2009 title at Alabama with a nearly identical approach, only this year's defense proved even more dominant.
"They are a hateful bunch," said Saban. "They are as competitive as you can imagine."
And yet, the 2011 team bares two notable differences from its 2009 predecessors: It didn't go undefeated, and it didn't win an SEC championship.
Thus, it will be hard for the college football world to unconditionally immortalize Alabama the way it normally does a national champion. The Tide will be remembered for an utterly dominant final game, but their season as a whole was fairly unmemorable. They beat an eventual 9-4 Penn State team the second week and 11-2 Arkansas a couple of weeks later.
And then they didn't beat another team with that many wins until ... Monday.
In a sport that champions the notion that "Every Game Counts," only the final one truly mattered this year. LSU had the better season. Alabama had the better team. The Tide could not have done anything more to prove that, but it sure would be nice if there was a way they could.

Final AP Poll
1. Alabama (55) 12-1
2. LSU (1) 13-1
3. Oklahoma State (4) 12-1
4. Oregon 12-2
5. Arkansas 11-2
6. USC 10-2
7. Stanford 11-2
8. Boise State 12-1
9. South Carolina 11-2
10. Wisconsin 11-3
11. Michigan State 11-3
12. Michigan 11-2
13. Baylor 10-3
14. TCU 10-3
15. Kansas State 10-3
16. Oklahoma 10-3
17. West Virginia 10-3
18. Houston 13-1
19. Georgia 10-4
20. Southern Miss 12-2
21. Virginia Tech 11-3
22. Clemson 10-4
23. Florida State 9-4
24. Nebraska 9-4
25. Cincinnati 10-3

All Buckeye NFL Team


Base offense (1 RB, 3 WR)
QB – Terrelle Pryor, Troy Smith**
RB – Beanie Wells, Brandon Saine, Maurice Clarett**
TE – Jake Ballard, Ben Hartsock, Roy Hall**
WR – Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr., Brian Robiskie
WR – Michael Jenkins, Brian Hartline, Roy Hall**
WR (slot) – Dane Sanzenbacher, Anthony Gonzalez
LT – Alex Boone, Jim Cordle
LG – Rob Sims, Adrian Clarke**
C – Nick Mangold (A,P), Jim Cordle
RG – Justin Boren, Bryant Browning
RT – Jim Cordle, Shane Olivea**

Base Defense (3-4)
NT – Ryan Pickett, Doug Worthington, Dexter Larimore***
DE – Will Smith, Thaddeus Gibson
DE – Cameron Heyward, Darrion Scott
OLB – Na’il Diggs, Bobby Carpenter
ILB – A.J. Hawk, Austin Spitler
ILB – James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant
OLB – Brian Rolle, Ross Homan***
CB – Nate Clements, Chimdi Chekwa, Ashton Youboty
CB – Antoine Winfield, Chris Gamble, Ashton Youboty
SS – Donte Whitner, Donald Washington, Jermale Hines
FS – Malcolm Jenkins, Kurt Coleman (nickle), Will Allen, Anderson Russell*

LS – Jake McQuaide
KR – Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Saine
PR – Ted Ginn Jr., Santonio Holmes
K – Mike Nugent
P – Andy Groom***

A - All-Pro selection (second-team)
P- Pro Bowl selection
*Practice squad player
**UFL player
***Out of league

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