Wednesday, July 28, 2010
We are only 5 weeks away from the official kick off of college football for the 2010 season and its time to start offering up a prediction on the upcoming year. That simple prediction is that the 2009 National Champion, the preseason # 1 team in the land, the program that has not lost a regular season game in the past two seasons, the Alabama Crimson Tide, will lose atleast one, if not more regular season games in 2010.
Here are my reasons why I've come to this stunning prediction...
1. THEY'RE DUE TO LOSE. That was the headline of a pre season magazine cover in 1992, when it predicted Alabama to win it all and hence forth they did with a 34-13 smackdown of Miami in the Sugar Bowl that essentially ended the Canes dynasty (funny, no mention of this game in ESPN's 30 for 30 movie so eloquently titled, "The U"). It applies this year to the Tide, simply put, they're due to falter. Its hard enough to go 12-0 once, let alone twice and to accomplish it in the SEC is even more difficult. Convential wisodom says the Tide will slip up.
2. SCHEDULE. Its difficult to say the least. Penn State comes to T-Town early in the season and the Tide goes on the road to Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU, with 3 of those 4 teams expected to be ranked in the pre season Top 25. Add in a road game at Duke, which Alabama should win, but combine the fact its the 3rd of a 5 week span where the Tide plays PSU at home, at Ark, at Duke and Florida at home and then at South Carolina, its work is cut out for them.
3. SCHEDULE, PART II. For years, Alabama fans complained that many of their opponents had a week off before they faced the Tide, many dismissed this a pure conincidence, but Tennessee, Ole Miss and others routinely played BYE the week before the encountered the Tide. Nick Saban said when he took over that he wanted to become a team that its opponents hated to play. Well missioned accomplished as 6 SEC teams have a Bye week before they play 'Bama in 2010. This constant fate the SEC has bestowed on UA is sure to catch up with them at some point.
4. INJURY FREE IS THE WAY TO BE. In the years that Alabama struggled under Mike Shula, a lack of depth or injuries constatnly plagued 'Bama. Seasons turned completely on injuries to Brodie Croyle in '04 and Tyrone Protho in '05 among others. Outside of Donta Hightower's season ending injury last year, Alabama has had very few starters miss time due to injuries. With a depleted defensive secondary, the Tide will need more of the same to avoid losing.
5. NEW STARTERS ON SPECIAL TEAMS. A new kicker, holder, snapper and punter must be found for Nick Saban in 2010. This cannot be overlooked because Alabama's kicking game has been excellent in the punting and field goal areas for the most part the past two seasons. Saban has rode the legs of PJ Fitzgerald and Leiigh Tiffin to play field position and grind out 3 point kicks in numerous contests the past two season on the way to wins over Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky and others the past two years. The kicking game was horrible in the Spring and we haven't even mentioned the graduated return man great in Javier Arenas, who was a threat to house it every time he touched the ball and could flip the field in a moments notice.
Its not all doom and gloom for the Tide. On paper, Alabama should be favored on a game by game basis heading into the season. But, when you throw in the scheduling quirks, 5 road trips, a non conference game vs a top 15 team, youth in the secondary and the uncertainty of the kicking game, they are sure to slip up at some point. Add in the fact that Alabama will get everyone's best shot, you have a recipe for some losses. Nobody knows at which point it will happen, many will point to Arkansas, maybe Florida or LSU, but it will probably be when you least expect it, like when 25 point underdog LSU ended Alabama 28 game unbeaten streak in Tuscaloosa in 1993 or Miss. State's improbable 6-3 win over the Tide in 1980 ended their quest for a third straight national title.