Leave it to the state of Alabama to produce the two coaches in this week's biggest college football in the country. Actually, leave it to us to reinforce the inaccurate perception of the region by many closed-minded factions in this land. Dabo, meet Jimbo.
That's in Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Florida State's Jimbo Fisher. In what could be a battle to decide at least one participant in the final BCS championship game, the two coaches bring in a pair of Top Five ballclubs with the matchup to be televised nation-wide in prime time on ABC television.
Swinney was a walk-on receiver on Bill Curry's 1989 team at Alabama, earning a scholarship the final three years of his playing days as Gene Stallings led the Tide to the national crown in 1992. After being fired at the Capstone with the rest of Mike DuBose's staff in 2001, he went to work for Tommy Bowden at Clemson. When Bowden fell out of favor and the team floundering around in mediocrity, it was the ever-positive Swinney who eventually won the job.
Fisher is a Terry Bowden product, playing for him at tiny Salem College and then following him to Samford for his senior year. It was a wise move. Fisher was the national Division III player of the year and still holds many Samford passing records. But more importantly, it thrust Fisher into the big-time ranks of college football. He coached under Nick Saban and then reunited with the Bowden family, coaching for Bobby's final trio of FSU teams. Eventually, he was named the "head coach in waiting," a title that is almost inconceivable these days, and then when the pressure got to the old man, he stepped in.
That's not the only ties to Alabama coming up Saturday. Fisher's staff features Dothan's own Lawrence Dawsey and Skipperville native Charles Kelly plus ex-Alabama assistants Jeremy Pruitt and Sal Sunseri. His quarterback is Hueytown's Jameis Winston, who has emerged as a Heisman candidate. Dawsey was one of the best athletes this town has ever produced, playing basketball his senior year with a broken bone in his hand. Kelly was a good player in his own right, the son of Houston Academy's first-ever football coach Lavon Kelly.
Florida State is a slight favorite according to the oddsmakers in Vegas, but there will be a collection of talent on the field at the same time that will be unrivaled this season in any contest. Some say it is the biggest game in ACC history.
A Clemson win, and the Tigers will be favored in their next four games with a trip to South Carolina awaiting on Nov. 30. Florida State has a little more difficult road to Pasadena, with Miami and a venture to Florida still to play. Personally, I like the outfit that wins Saturday night to run the table the rest of the way.
Oh, and a footnote on the nicknames. Jimbo comes from his first name, James. Dabo's comes from what was then a 17-month-old younger brother who repeatedly failed to call his hero "that boy." So go ahead and pile on if you want Ohio State, Oregon and Oklahoma. I just wouldn't advise you to bring your team against the good old boys.
Phil Paramore's column appears Tuesday and Saturday in The Dothan Eagle. He can be heard weekdays from 11 until 1 on AM 560 The Ball, 100.1 FM or world-wide at www.woofradio.com. He can be reached at the same website.