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Unfortunately it will take a while to get that loss out of my head. Something tells me that I will always remember that one. Punt Bama Punt happened the year before I was born so there is no recollection of it. Maybe Cam’s Comeback Bowl 2010 is the new Punt Bama Punt.

My personal maxim of football is that the game is won on the line-of-scrimmage. Coming into the game, I felt like Auburn had done a better job all season of controlling both lines and thus the advantage was theirs. I hoped Alabama could put together its first complete game of the year and win, but I thought it would take the kind of effort that hadn’t been seen all season.

Here are a  few random thoughts about the game from the perspective of a fan on the 25 yard line of the West Upper Deck:

  • Auburn won because they were a better football team this year. Despite all the time we give to records and programs and comparisons, the game is won by the better team the vast majority of the time. I didn’t say more talented squad or better coached, or more focused, I said better team. I can still love the University of Alabama and its football team but I can readily admit that Auburn had the better overall team. This year.
  • Auburn is a better team this year mainly due to its experience. A quick review of their depth chart shows that one offensive lineman, the H-back, and running back are the only guaranteed returning starters next season ( I am assuming that Adams and Newton will go pro). On defense, one lineman, one linebacker, and two defensive backs will be back (I am assuming Fairley goes pro as well). That is a lot of experience and it is hard to trump that on talent alone and in all fairness, there are some pretty talented kids in that group. They never gave up, which is tenacity that is learned through experience. Talent in no way makes up for that.
  • Auburn also has an incredible quarterback. Forget about allegations for a minute. Cam Newton is a once in a generation athlete. You just don’t find talent like that everyday – Julio Jones is the same way at receiver, unfortunately receiver does not impact the game the way quarterback does. I’m just glad we only have to hear about him for one year. You think Tebow love made you sick, imagine four years of Newton.
  • Auburn rarely makes mistakes. There were no offensive penalties that I recall. The flag against Fairley was ticky-tack at best and was probably earned in the last game (Thanks, Bulldogs). They just didn’t do many things to beat themselves. That is the mark of a good team (see ’09 Alabama).
  • Forget about the “out-coached” comments. Alabama’s game plan was great. The team was motivated. The offense did a great job early on and the the Tiger defense on its heels. The defense was phenomenal. I never imagined Alabama would be that effective against Newton (despite the loss, Alabama still out gained Auburn and held Newton to season lows) but if the plan was to stop the run and make them beat us in the air, as it usually is, Newton and company made the plays that Alabama didn’t.  Four trips in the Red Zone in the first half that netted two field goals and two turnovers. That’s not coaching. That’s execution.  Look at it like this, if Alabama scores a touchdown on any of those four possessions, we aren’t talking about this today. A back dropping a sure touchdown pass or the most sure handed back that I can remember fumbling a ball through the end zone are not coaching problems.
  • I’m not sure what happened to the resiliency Alabama used to show in the fourth quarter. This could be a coaching call, but I’m going to defer to experience and leadership.
  • Empty seats in the student section are inexcusable. Come on, kids!
  • We need to have a few less Scott Cochran cheers during the game. I don’t think they are working.

Finally, as disappointed as I was (and am), I really don’t believe that this signals a shift of power in the state (other than the one obvious year). As mentioned above, Auburn is senior laden and both Cam and Malzhan should be gone next year (I’d kind of like to see Cam behind a line with four new starters and for both Newton and Malzhan, their stock will never be any higher than it is right now). With the majority of their defense gone as well, Auburn should struggle against a brutal road schedule.

Alabama is not unique in that it has struggled (by comparison) in a season after a national title with a roster that lost a lot of starters. The Tide had a much better season than Texas or Florida. Recruiting is going well and despite what happened Friday, I wouldn’t even consider trading Saban for Malzhan or anyone else for that matter.

Alabama’s loss to Auburn on Friday hurt. It hurt bad. I’m just to the point where I can stand to think about it three days later. I was a little worried Friday night that I was too upset about it. I mean, I’m a grown man with responsibilities far greater than being a college football fan. I have a family. I have a business. When you shake out all the important stuff, the outcome of one football game isn’t really that big of a deal.

On the other hand, I am rational enough to know that there more important things than football and that realization, in and of itself, allows me to be passionate about football and not feel the least bit guilty about it.

I am a passionate person. That’s just who I am. I emotionally invest myself in the University of Alabama football team and their success and failure. The wins mean something to me, especially the big ones, like the SEC and National championships won last season and the last two year’s Iron Bowls. And if I revel in the highs, by nature, I must suffer through the lows. The losses hurt on an emotional level. It’s a vicious cycle that I am in, but the highs are worth the lows, because of one thing:

As a person, I am not defined by the actions of a football team. The football team that I have adopted as my own especially, but also any teams that interact with them.

My team losing does not make me a loser. My team winning does not make me a winner. My value as a person, both to myself and to others has nothing whatsoever to do with a scoreboard. Never has. Never will.

I think we all need to be reminded of that from time to time. Ego wants us to compare ourselves with others – even to the extent of winners and losers on the football field. That comparison makes us feel better or worse than others – better if our team wins, worse if out team looses – but never equal to others. As much fun as it is to build up the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn, the truth is that there is virtually no differences between the fan bases of either school. Maybe the comedy comes from pointing out despicable attributes of ourselves and labeling our rival with them. Either way, the jokes that we make about one school and its fans can be used in the opposite, just as easily.

The problem comes when we take the identity of our chosen team as our own.

As disappointed as I was at the loss, I was still proud to be a fan and an alumnus.  After the recent success of Alabama, it was hard to believe that they were going to lose again. When it happened, especially to our rival, it is hard to stomach.

One final thought while I’m full of brevity today: Hate is an active emotion. I’m not sure the psychological jargon involved, but I am certain that to hate someone or something requires active participation from the person doing the hating. I understand that it is considered part of the rivalry and that is what makes this particular rivalry so heated, but the hate doesn’t really do us any good other than the comedic aspect of all of this.

I’m not going to wast energy hating something. That’s energy I could use for other, more important things. Especially if that hate only serves to protect or feed my Ego.

Of course there are 39 weeks until the 2011 season kicks off.

1) What will Alabama have to do in order to regroup after the loss to
South Carolina and prepare for Ole Miss?

It would seem that the team needs to learn form their mistakes and focus on the task at hand. It’s hard to put a finger on one particular thing that needs to be fixed, and thus it falls to the leaders of this team to step forward and push where needed.

There is still tremendous talent on this team. Despite the failures we saw last week, if a few things had gone differently (stopping the first third and long on their opening possession, stopping Garcia on his first down scramble, Darius making to catch for first down over the middle, executing better on second and five, etc.) then the whole game goes differently.

The time for excuses and what-ifs (if there were ever such a time) is gone. This team needs to execute – that’s what they can control – the other things will take care of themselves.

2) How does the Crimson Tide match up against the Rebels going into
Saturday?

It’s hard for me to say, because I just don’t know that much about this Ole Miss team. They have an athletic quarterback and that gave Alabama’s defense trouble last week. But beyond that, I’m just not schooled enough in what they run or have to work with.

Getting back to my first answer though, this game needs to be more about Alabama anyway. Can our guys execute? Can our guys show resiliency? Can our guys dominate play after play?

This Alabama team is deeper and more talented – I do know that much. They have more to play for. They are better coached. To me, this week, that’s the only important match up.

3) What is the biggest area of improvement you’d like Alabama make in
this game?

Focus and intensity. To continue on a theme: execution.

4) What are your thoughts on the Ole Miss mascot debate?

They missed the bus by letting the Admiral Ackbar thing go.

Seriously, and I hate to paint with broad brushes and I know that the following is not true with every single Ole Miss fan, but:

Ole Miss still represents everything that is wrong with the South. And they’re proud of that.

The elitist attitude of maintaining the Southern Aristocracy has got to die out before it makes any difference what their mascot is. Not to cast stones from glass houses – there is still an air of that at Alabama – but Ole Miss is the poster child of the “way it out to be” by their own reckoning and no one else’s. It’s as if they believe that they are the last bastion of all that is or was good with the South. Something tells me that the vast majority of them think it is a travesty that Colonel Reb still isn’t the mascot. Until they get beyond that, what does it really matter?

Welcome to this week’s installment of the Roundtable. You can find the other responders and a wrap-up post right here. On to the questions:

1. What is the biggest lesson we learned in the win over Arkansas last
Saturday?

The first thing that comes to mind would be resiliency; Alabama did what they had to do late in the game to win. Sometime in the third quarter, when Arkansas was up by two scores, thoughts drifted back to a few previous Alabama experiences: at Auburn last season, against a Saban coached LSU team in 2000 and against the eventual national champion, LSU, in 2007 (which still had some Sabanistic toughness now missing in Baton Rouge). All three of those games were won, eventually by the better team (two of them were Saban-led) despite the fact that they trailed in the fourth quarter.

This team has confidence and a belief in what it is doing.

The second thing that was learned, and perhaps just as important, is that this defense still has a lot of work to do. This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone at this point. They were atrocious in the first half. If there is a silver lining it is that they did appear to grow up some in the second half. Now, let’s see if they can keep the intensity and effort up for a whole game.

2. What is the biggest concern going into the game with Florida next
Saturday?

The defense’s ability to stop Florida is the biggest concern. Granted, despite the production against Kentucky last week, Florida has not appeared to be the offensive team we’ve come to expect from a Meyer led team but there is potential for Brantley to find some success with the deep ball – two other opponents have and Florida is more than capable.

This weekend’s game appears to be a case of strength on strength (Florida’s defense versus Alabama’s offense) and weakness on weakness (Florida’s offense and Alabama’s defense). The talent gap you can count on with most of Alabama’s opponents is almost non-existent. It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.

3. Will this contest be a preview of this year’s SECCG? Why or why
not?

At this point, due to obvious weakness in teams from the East, Florida is without a doubt your odds on favorite. South Carolina is the only team that could conceivably beat them, but that would seem to be a long shot at this point.

The West, however, is a different story. There are three teams that have a shot. LSU has holes, yet they’ve remained unbeaten.  The same could be said of Auburn. At this point Alabama has to be the favorite, but there are some holes there, too.

If Alabama can make it through the next two weeks unbeaten (or even with one loss) it stands a good chance of beating Ole Miss and Tennessee and making it to  the bye week in position to get it legs under it and focus on fundamentals for a week before preparing for the always tough trip to Baton Rouge.  Auburn could very well stumble down the stretch but right now they’ll be the favorite in every contest now except for one. The gmae on the day after Thanksgiving could very well decide the West’s representative in the championship game.

If this does indeed turn out to be a copy of the bill for the title game, it would stand to reason that both the Alabama defense and Florida offenses would be better.

4. What part of this week’s gameday experience are you most looking forward to?

While this appears to be one of the most perfect combinations possible in the football world – a top-ten match up of the conference elite, a clash of cultures and some of the best football weather imaginable – I find that I’m excited about this contest more than any other this season for other reasons.

For the past twelve consecutive seasons, I have gathered for at least one game with two of my closest college buddies. The core three have stayed the same, but without fail at least two more join us and it becomes an annual celebration. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but these guys  travel from at least 1,600 miles away. While they have definite Alabama ties – one’s grandfather played with Paul Bryant on the ’31 National Championship team and later worked for the Athletic Department for years – it’s their passion for Alabama in distant, heathen lands that has brought new converts into the fold. We now have a group of several guys from western states that make a yearly trip to the Capstone to watch Alabama play, despite the fact they have no ties to the University or SEC football. It’s going to be a big weekend for me.

All that we’ve been hearing in the build up to the game tomorrow, at least as far as Arkansas is concerned, is Mallett. Mallett, Mallett, Mallett…

If Mallett had been hurt last week, would anyone give Arkansas any chance tomorrow?

If Mallett gets hurt in the first series tomorrow, ala Colt McCoy, would Arkansas be able to even stay on the field?

Sure, the Razorback receivers are good – then again, any group of receivers that gets thrown to that much is going to be good – and Alabama’s secondary is young, but the Razorback ball carriers don’t seem to be a huge threat; Arkansas will attempt to establish to run, only to give Mallett more opportunities. There again, beyond Ryan Mallett, what is the real threat on this team. It isn’t power running and it isn’t stifling defense.

Is there anyone who says that outside of the arm of Ryan Mallett, the Razorbacks have any chance?

That being the case, the game plan becomes pretty simple. Don’t let Ryan Mallett beat you.

Do you think Nick Saban hasn’t thought about that all week?

Great football teams don’t rely on just one player. Therefore Arkansas really shouldn’t be a great football team. Or should they?

1.What is the most important thing we learned about the Alabama team in the wake of the Duke game?

There are three lessons that were learned this week. None of them are new and all are equally important. There seems to be further evidence that this version of the Alabama Crimson Tide shows up to play every week regardless of who the opponent is. That’s the first lesson and it is a carryover from Week 1 when the opponent was hapless San Jose State. The second lesson is that this offense only seems to get more impressive. A new week, bigger offensive production. The final lesson is that the defense still has a lot of room for improvement. It might turn out that it is a good and capable defense, but at this point it is certainly not a dominant one.

2.What is the biggest area of concern in respect to Alabama’s performance in the upcoming game against Arkansas?

Without having read anybody else’s weekly answers, it is safe to say that this is a big ditto: the defense. It would seem that tackling, coverage and run stopping all need to improve for the upcoming contest with Arkansas. There will be legion Alabama fans grimaced in agonizing butt tensioning when Mallet and company take the field.

3. Which is more dangerous: Ryan Mallett and the Razorback offense or the Arkansas defense?

Giving credit where it is due, the Hogs stop unit appears much improved (when you’re at the bottom there aren’t many other places to go than up) but without question it is their ability to score points. Georgia is not playing good football and seeing the same quality of offense from Alabama as the Bulldogs this week would be really surprising. The Hog D is in for a much stronger test. The defenses for both teams will be tested as they have not been this weekend.

4. How important is the Arkansas game for Alabama’s prospects both in the SEC West and the conference as a whole?

The most apparent answer is huge, but if you take a deeper look it’s not that simple. Arkansas, like Alabama, is basically untested at this point. After Saturday there will still be eight conference games to play (seven for the Hogs) and that is a lot of opportunity for both good and bad to happen. A win by wither team will take some pressure off but that’s going to be the same for every divisional foe each team faces. You always hear about “controlling your own destiny” and wins make that easier, but all hope is not lost with a loss by either team.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been sucking at this blogging thing recently. And by recently, I’m referring to the last 19 months.

Enough of the whining and excuse making. In order to help us make it through this time of year and saving you from the mindless drivel that I contemplated for this, I’m taking the initiative to temporarily alter the format to just three questions this week.  The questions:

1. Expansion has happened. The Pac-10 and Big Ten have grown by two and one teams respectively, the Big XII has shrunk by two and the Mountain West has added one (the WAC lost one, but really who cares?). Who did the best and worse in the whole deal, conference, team or both?

2. To piggyback off the last question, do you foresee a shift in the balance of power in the conferences based on these moves?

3. On to our team; I believe that it is safe to say that Alabama was a run first, clock-control type offense last season. This was, I think, first and foremost because we could count on the defense to shut down the opposing team – the only exception to this was the game plan against Florida, who the coaching staff seemed to respect offensively more. By all accounts the defense will not be as good this year and the offense will be counted on to score more points. Do you believe that the offensive philosophy will reflect this more – basically will the offensive game plan we saw against Florida be the norm for this season?

I’ll be the first to admit that contributing regular, much less meaningful blog posts is tough. Even without anything resembling a life it can become a chore. Add in the doldrums of the off-season that keeps anticipation for actual football high but football-related news low and the act of writing  can easily be shunted until “tomorrow”; only tomorrow usually becomes August. So like the sailors of old stuck in that hot, windless region near the Equator (wow – the parallels are eerily similar, save the proximity to the Equator) we’ll work to maintain the discipline required to keep things in order and running smoothly.

Many thanks to Todd, over at the Champagne of Alabama football blogs, Roll Bama Roll for this weeks questions. As always you can refer to the Roundtable Blog for links to all this contributors.

1. Have y’all developed an unexpected affection for any of the non-revenue sports during the offseason, and if so which ones?

I am firmly on the baseball bandwagon – in true form, only when they are winning – and I was glued to the Softball Super Regional, but for the last five years my springs have been dominated by little league baseball. With two boys playing, it becomes a second, full-time job so there isn’t the time to follow the other sports. I love my alma mater and gladly support it every opportunity I get, but the reality is I devote so much to Fall Saturdays – we have declined participation in more than a few things because of possible conflicts with Alabama games – that the “account” tends to get rather low and thus requires the other nine months to build the balance back up. I do love me some Braves though – three games over the Phillies right now!! (I realize that isn’t a non-revenue sport, but it helps to pass the time).

2. Back to football, which team on the upcoming schedule are you most looking forward to facing and why?

I’m sure this is the stock answer but Penn State is going to be the perfect storm of college football perfection. Along the same lines this year has one of the best schedules and home schedules in particular. Two seasons ago, when Tennessee and LSU were away and Kentucky, moribund State and Ole Miss teams made up the home schedule, along with the Teagles – which saved the home schedule from Siberia-like bleakness – there weren’t many weeks games that had me excited about hauling all our gear to the Quad. That won’t be the case this year as virtually every home game, save Georgia State and San Jose State – where the newness of the expanded stadium and arrival of football will far out shine the opponent – will be eagerly anticipated affairs.  It’s going to be like a roller coaster where you’ve got just enough time to catch your breath before the next exciting turn has you white-knuckled in your recliner or stadium seat.

3. It’s hard to imagine Jim McElwain not making the leap to a head coaching position sometime soon. When that sad day comes, who would be your dream OC hire to take his place?

I’m not sure. I’m a defensive-minded fan and so, while I find a lot of these high-flying offenses intriguing, I really like seeing them at other schools. I’ll just go ahead and resign myself to what will happen anyway: I’ll trust that Saban will make the best choice for our team and the personnel on it.

4. In that same vein, which OC that Alabama will face this year would you send an unmarked van filled with goons to “disappear” and then replace with a cosmetically-surgified-to-look-just-like-them Jeff Bowden?

Petrino and Mullen are both head coaches/offensive coordinators that seem to have earned respect; Arkansas is supposedly a dark-horse NC contender (I suppose only because someone has to be) and I’m very interested to see Florida post-Mullen without the boy wonder. But I’m going to go with someone who as an OC or Head Coach has probably the best record against Alabama and that would be David Cutcliffe. The only thing that gives me any hope (other than the fact that he doesn’t have a Manning taking snaps this time) is that Alabama should be a far superior team, talent-wise. Say what you want about Cutcliffe, but he has the numbers to prove he can call an offense.

5. Finally, what is the one thing you are most looking forward to when football season finally gets here?

It’s certainly, in part, the restless anticipation that builds to crescendo on game week, the electricity that is palpable as I walk the well worn steps from the tailgate, across the Walk of Champions, up the spiral and to my seat, and the way the hair stands up on my neck as the “Star Spangled Banner” is completed and the team runs on to the field. Or even the euphoric elation that can only come from beating Tennessee, LSU or Auburn. Or the way my heart will swell with pride when the new National Championship flag is unveiled for the first time (against Penn State and not San Jose State if anybody in the Athletic Department is reading). All those things are great and I do look forward to them, but the honest and simple truth is that there are seven guaranteed days when I can crack open a beer between 7:00 and 9:00 (a.m.) and know that I have nothing to do the rest of the day but enjoy the  fellowship of good friends and the bask in the joy of something I am absolutely passionate about. That’s the definition of a blessing.

This week’s edition of the Rountable bids a fond farewell to Memphis Tider as he ceases blogging on his site this week. I completely understand this thing called real life and how it interferes with activities like blogging. There comes a point when you have to pare down things in your life because there are just too many of them. Best wishes, Memphis Tider!

On with the questions:

1.After hearing as much as I have about BJ Scott, Dre Kirkpatrick, Rod Woodson, etc, is it possible that the secondary this year may actually be better than last year’s squad?

I guess that anything is possible and it would seem that the premise is that raw athletic ability will make up for the lack of experience but it just seems that experience is just too important. As talented as they are they are bound to see some things that make them think and as we all know at this point, if you’re thinking you’re not reacting. Really elite football teams react. The most likely scenario is that this groups surprises us by their rapid development as the season progresses. The early conference tests set up well for being tested and learning early.

2. How will all of the awards and honors, especially from his hometown, affect Mark Ingram’s performance this season?

Ingram seems to be a humble enough kid that it shouldn’t affect him. The unfortunate thing is that he is very unlikely to produce this year like he did last – it was, in fact, a record breaking performance, he stayed relatively injury free, and Richardson emerged as a viable option in his own right and that should reduce some of the load and thus opportunities this year. There is a faction out there that will blame his relative woes on a big head if the numbers drop. Tebow remained humble after his trophy and although his numbers were never as good as his Heisman year he remained an effective player. I believe that Ingram is made of the same type of stuff. At least I hope he is.

3. Could you see Greg McElroy as a legitimate early round selection in the NFL draft next year? Why or why not?

Admittedly I know very little of what constitutes an early round pick in the NFL but if McElroy improves some and is consistent (I suppose that would be his improvement) there is a possibility he could be an early draft pick.

4. James Willis was a master recruiter and one hell of a linebackers coach. We haven’t talked much about what the loss of him means to our staff. Tell us what you think the effect will be with him gone to Texas Tech.

What a great question. First Saban has shown that winning is not a function of consistency in staffing so I believe that as long as he’s piloting the ship, the course will remain the same. As far as how he’ll do at Texas Tech, his addition to the staff has to be a boon for Tuberville. Willis’ knowledge of defense has got to help the Red Raiders and surely his recruiting prowess will be helpful. But overall, Texas Tech will probably never be a football “power” and that is mostly for the same reasons that Mississippi State will never be: there is really no tradition from which to build and the location is horrible. I believe that as a coach selling a program you’re better off selling a new program than you are one with a history of mediocrity. Also, and I mean no offense to Starkville and Lubbock, unless you are raised with an affinity for these institutions, there really isn’t much in the way of enticement to spend four or five years of your life there. Sure some would argue that you could say the same of Tuscaloosa, and on many levels I’d agree, but the difference  is that Tuscaloosa is a football town – it doesn’t take very long for even the most football obtuse to realize that – and there is an established history of football excellence here. If you’re going to spend four to five years in a location that doesn’t fit your idea of paradise, you at least want the opportunity to win while you’re there. To conclude and be concise with my response: Willis will do well in Lubbock because he is a good coach, but there would seem to be a glass ceiling on the level of accomplishment that is possible at Texas Tech.

5. Have you ever seen a state whose political views can be switched by football rumors? The Tim James fiasco is absolutely incredible to me how much football can mean to a state.

I must be out of the loop more than I thought because I don’t know all the details. I don’t listen to Finebaum because he’s an instigator and tends to bring out the worst elements in the football loving public of our fine state. As far as I can tell most folks that would seek to be callers on Finebaum’s show are exactly the kind of person that can’t wait to vote for James.  So I’ll provide two responses: First, good or bad, football is our thing in this state. Despite the ridiculous heat that unpacks its bags  and moves in for four to five months this time of year and the ignorance that abounds in this state (the very fact that there is even the remotest of possibilities that Tim James could become governor proves the astounding amount of ignorance) there is no place in the world I’d rather be as September rolls around than right here. Football is what we do.

Second, Tim James represents the worst element of this state, the ignorant masses who attend church every Sunday and still believe that it’s acceptable to hate and oppress, the hypocrite, those with two-story houses in their eyes that stand up and yell about the splinters of their neighbors eyes, those who would gladly lead a prayer in a school unless of course it was a prayer to Allah or in Hebrew, those who teach English in schools and still say “ain’t” and end sentences with “at”, those who believe God and the founding fathers stand firmly with them despite the fact that the only verse of scripture they know  is John 3:16 and couldn’t tell you anything of the fathers other than that they were “Christians”, basically the people that love Rick and Bubba. James  is counting on their vote to become governor. That is reprehensible. He is the definition of a politician and I loathe him for that.  I contend that we need a leader. Someone who will embrace the future and the changes that must take place in this state if we are ever to move beyond where we are now.  Someone who will put an emphasis on education despite the fact that it doesn’t play well politically. OK, I’m done now. I’ll stop before I get really worked up.

This weeks questions were provided courtesy of one of the best college football blogs out there, Third Saturday in Blogtober. As always you can get links to all participants here.

1. Whenever a media outlet evaluates the Tide heading into the fall, the first three questions are always ‘how will the Tide replace Terrence Cody?’, ‘will the secondary be a weakness?’, and ‘what sort of liability will special teams be?’ After these three obvious questions, is there another area not being discussed that could be problematic this fall?

Because the offensive line is basically recreated every single season (unless you have that very rare situation where all five starters return) I will stress over how that unit gels until I see proof otherwise. There is also bound to be some drop off in production at the tight end position with the loss of Colin Peek. Those are the two that concern me in addition to the 2010 pre-season boiler plate concerns.

2. Every season since Coach Saban showed up on campus, at least two true freshman have distinguished themselves either as starters or as standout contributors on offense or defense. In 2007, it was Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson, followed by Julio Jones and Donta Hightower in 2008, and last year it was Trent Richardson and (arguably) Nico Johnson. Who do you see being an immediate asset for the class of 2010?

Because of the lack of depth in the secondary that would seem to be the area that would offer the quickest playing time. Milliner and Fulton could see playing time there based on their supposed skill sets. Generally, I believe it’s hard to predict what freshman, if any, can make an impact. The one big difference between this year and the previous two is that the quality depth is as good as it has been since the early nineties. You’d have to be a very special player at an area of need to break to rotation this season.

3. We’re all hopeful that Alabama goes undefeated for the third consecutive regular season, but ‘unlikely’ doesn’t begin to describe the difficulty of that. If Alabama is going to lose at least one game, the question is not which is most likely, but which loss could you stomach the easiest?

As much as I hate to think about the sickening feeling that I’ll have in my stomach when that finally happens, my first reaction is that the Florida or Penn State games would be the easiest to take. Those are early enough that the team could recover  enough with good performances down the stretch. Plus with Florida, the team could win out and get a rematch that would matter more. Either way, that’s just tough to think about.

4. Lots of people are pointing to the Georgia State game as the functional equivalent of a bye week. Agree or disagree?

I agree so much that it may even be better than a bye week. That is a game that should see the starters exit early and every single player on the roster logging some playing time. It would be even better if they can do it on Thursday, so Saban could keep his routine week in preparation for Auburn. I hate to degrade any opponent but let’s face facts, the scout team has more talent than the Curry’s Georgia State team will have.

5. We’ve been talking about hypothetical expansion for weeks now and the consensus is that the SEC will expand if it feels so compelled by the moves of other conferences. For a few days a specious rumor has been circulating on MSM sources that the Big Ten has extended invitations to Nebraska, Missouri, Notre Dame, and Rutgers (one version includes Syracuse). If this group of invites were true, would this be enough to cause the SEC to attempt expansion? Why or why not?

I believe that it would. If the SEC has been anything, it has been progressive. I just can’t see them resting on their laurels while another conference makes attempts to steal its thunder.

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