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I rarely agree with Scarbinsky. I beleive him to be a failed Dennis Miller wannabe and sensationalistic blowhard. But I will give him props when he deserves them.

He’s a little more bullish on the prospects of the football team that Alabama will field in ’09 than some of the “experts” are.

Basically, three pundits have proclaimed the Tide a top six team that will be in the mix for the national title again.

In this instance, I thinks he’s got it right.

I’ll go ahead and go on the record now and say that Alabama should begin the season around 15. You don’t immediately contend with 2/5 of an experienced offensive line (including replacements at center and left tackle) or a wide-eyed quarterback.

The possibiltity is there to see addition by subtraction at the signal caller position but the line will take a few games to get it together either way. You don’t go on a strong campaign without good line play. You just don’t.

The only saving grace could be the schedule. Auburn and Ole Miss will be the toughest road games, not the mention the season opener againast a Virginia Tech team that improved most of the last half of the season. The Tide does get a rebuilding Tennessee, an improved Arkansas, and an always dangerous LSU at home. Exchaning Georgia for South Carolina helps as well.

My belief is that the offense is purring by the end of the season and the defense has become other worldly. This makes me think that as play begins in 2010 that Alabama will be loaded at most every position and a top three pre-season ranking will be warranted.

I don’t think that the parallels are exactly the same but, for the most part, the third year of a new coach, following a great second year, is usually down. LSU just completed the worst season since Saban’s third year. The fourth year is statiscally a good year though. Just look at Saban, Meyer, or Les Miles for further proof.

(ht: Bama Sports Report)

Having completed week seven, we are at the halfway of the 2008 football season. Sad isn’t it. Of course if you’re an Alabama fan, up to this point, you really can ask for nothing more. Here is quick look at where conference teams are, where we thought they would be and what’s coming in the future:

Alabama

After week seven Alabama stands as the only undefeated team in the conference, a consensus number two in the major polls, and a projection from major media outlets as a player in the BCS championship game.

Wow! Just wow!

After coming off a 7-6 campaign that defined mediocrity and being picked to finish third in the division only the most delusional fans would have predicted this. Yours truly predicted the Tide to have two losses at this point. The rise of Alabama to this point has been nothing short of miraculous.

It starts with an injury list that is virtually empty, superior play from some guys on the roster that no one though were capable of such, and an influx of incredible new talent. Alabama has played a little too up and down for some but has been there when it mattered.

The season opening Clemson win looks less and less impressive as the fighting Bowdens spiral into oblivion and the low scoring affairs with Tulane and Kentucky are not exactly huge accomplishments. The win over Georgia, in Athens, stands as the best accomplishment on their resume. The Arkansas win gained a little more luster after the weekend, even if that’s only within the confines of our great state.

The rest of the season looks manageable but scary. Alabama will begin the second half of the season with a target squarely on its back. For teams like Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and now, Auburn, beating Alabama would be a high point for less-than-stellar seasons. LSU might be the only team left that Alabama will be an underdog against and that is a big, might.

Fan-in-me aside: I’ll admit it. I am very excited about this season but it makes me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory. There isn’t a team Alabama plays that cannot beat them if they are not ready and committed. The Tide can beat everyone on the schedule, but Auburn could have beaten Arkansas. Will I be content with 9-2? Probably not now although it would be a definite improvement. It’s easy to look at the present tenuous situation that all of our rivals are in and say Alabama should role but all three of those teams can be very dangerous to an unprepared team and Alabama has yet to trail. How will they respond when they do? Tennessee worries me and worse than that LSU and Auburn are still, despite the recent troubles, the proud holders of streaks over Alabama that fill up at least one hand. Nothing is proven until those streaks are reversed.

Hold on. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

To be continued…

This is the fourth installment in my chronicles of the worst Alabama football games I have personally attended. The goal is to gain a little perspective about where we (as a fan base) have been and contrast the bad games with the good games in the past (and future).

You can find the previous entries here: No. 10 was the losses to Mississippi State in ‘06, UCF in 2000, and ULM in ‘07. No. 9 was the loss to State in ‘98 and No. 8 was the defeat against Georgia in ‘07 and No. 7 was the loss to Auburn in 2000.

No. 6: Alabama(23) at Arkansas(24) (2OT), Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas, September 23, 2006

Many years ago I set for myself the goal of attending an Alabama football game at every stadium in the conference. Up until 2006 I had never been to Fayetteville and it was the only stadium of a SEC Western Division school that I had not been to. When my new neighbor, who has business interests in the Fayetteville area invited me to attend the game with him I jumped at the chance.

In my lifetime, Alabama is 297-127-2, and I have been to approximately 120-125 of those games. More specifically, since 1995, when I started attending the University of Alabama, I have been to 111 games -that is every game in Bryant-Denny except one during that time span and all but two at Legion Field plus several away games – and Alabama’s record in those contests is 66-45. That means I have witnessed Alabama lose 45 times in person. What makes me pick ten and place them above the rest as exceptional losses? It’s a finely tuned and not easily explained combination of opponent, situation leading up to the game, what was at stake, and how Alabama performed. There is also another factor that makes a truly horrible experience; situation surrounding the game that have nothing to do with it and still affect your experience. This loss in particular was horrendous because of the simle fact that Alabama litterlly took defeat from the jaws of victory, but there were some other factors at play.

First off- I’m pretty sure that it’s easier to get to Tibet than it is Fayetteville. It’s definitely somewhere you go to and not through. It’s about 550 miles from Tuscaloosa. That’s farther than it is to Gainesville, or Lexington, or Columbia. But to its credit is a very picturesque place. The drive up from I-40 is quite scenic and when you get to the campus, the way the stadium sits on the hill is really pretty.

Because my friend and ride was coming home from vacation that day, we didn’t actually get to leave town until about 10:30 on Friday night. That’s about 16 hours prior to kickoff and we had to drive what seemed like 30 hours just to get there. Oh and there’s the sickness. I almost forgot the sickness. On Tuesday of the previous week I came down with strep throat for the first time since probably high school. On Wednesday I begged the doctor for shots of anything that would help me feel better. By Friday I was just starting to feel like myself again but I was still exhausted. Needless to say, when we arrived in at the tailgate, after about three hours of sleep at a hotel somewhere between Memphis and Little Rock, I was spent.

We passed through a huge rain storm between Little Rock and the interstate connector that takes you into Fayetteville and as we pulled into our parking spot the sky was still cloudy. The clouds surrendered to the sun as we made the steep walk up the sill to the stadium a few hours later.

Coming into this game Alabama was 3-0 on the season and going back to the start of the ’05 campaign was a combined 13-2.  The season had opened as expected with a win over Hawaii in which the team tried to give it a way in the end. They followed that up with a close win over Vanderbilt and an easy victory over La-Monroe (boy those were the days). This was to be the first road test for the Tide and a game they could win. After all the hogs had been dismantled by USC and then rebounded to beat a hapless out-of-conference opponent.

John Parker Wilson Ross’ Brother did a good job as a sophmore signal caller. Actually from what I remember he played very well, maybe even a little over his head. DJ Hall had great catch for a touchdown that put him over 1,000 yards for his career and the defense did admirably in stopping the Arkansas deadly duo of McFadden and Jones. In fact, I’m quite certain that had Alabama not lost a turnover that was returned for a touchdown that we never would have been able to argue about how Shula got all conservative and made the long march for an ill fated field goal attempt instead of going for the touchdown. Tiffin was horrible that day. He missed three field goals and an extra point. The last field goal would have won it in the first overtime and the missed PAT gave the game to the Razorbacks. It was the second time Alabama had lost to Nutt’s hogs in a four year period and the loss gave Shula a 1-2 record against Nutt.

It was heartbreaking to walk away from the stadium with the feeling that the game had been given away. Alabama beat themselves. That is one of the most frustrating types of losses. Losing to better teams isn’t necessarily good but it’s somewhat understandable. Losing to someone you had beat just makes you sit there and scratch your head and way “What just happened”?

In hind sight that became the game that started the wheels coming off of the Shula bus. A win there and the season probably turn out differently. A win there and he gets a little more leeway with the rest of the year. But it wasn’t to be.

After you sit there for a while and let the sting of defeat sink in there comes a point where you realize that you still have to drive home.

Did I mention that it was a long way?

Things are not looking good for the AAFL, an off-season football league that is trying to capitalize on college football fans by fielding teams in college football hot-beds like Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, and Michigan by using some player with ties to those areas.

There is a report this morning in the Gainesville Sun that the league may be close to folding. It has less than a month to come up with $7 to $10 million for stadium leases.

I hope they find a way to play as it would have been a great off-season distraction and I’m guessing that you could have gotten a sky box in Legion Field in Birmingham for around $43. That is, of course if Legion Field had sky boxes.

Update: Orson (um.. Spencer) has post up about it at TSN. And he reminded me of the excellent report of the draft provided a while back by Holly and Company.

AAFL,  rest in peace.

The results from the combine are in. I don’t get particulary excited about the NFL (full disclosure: I couldn’t care less about Sunday Football) but the combine and draft are a little interesting because it gives an indication about colleges that are producing NFL caliber talent.

While looking at the top ranked forty times by position I noticed something – there weren’t any Alabama players in the top of the rankings. You had to dig a little deeper to find the current bunch of Alabama players and their times. For example, Alabama’s preseason All-SEC corner Simeon Castille was near the bottom of defensive backs at a scorching 4.7. To put that in comparison, Tyvon Branch (UConn) and Justin King (Penn State) both ran 4.31 to lead all defensive backs. There were 13 sub 4.4 times in that bunch. It appears that Simeon was just a little off the pace. A few of the notable SEC d-backs:

Michael Grant (Arkansas) 4.37

Jonathan Wilhite (Auburn) 4.38

Patrick Lee (Auburn) 4.4

Jonathan Hefney (Tennessee) 4.53

Jonathan Zenon (LSU) 4.56

Chevis Jackson (LSU) 4.58

Matterral Richardson (Arkansas) 4.7 – Seriously? That’s his name? Why have I never noticed that until now?

The Crimson Tide fared a little better with Defensive Lineman. But not much. All-SEC Defensive End and all-around nice guy Wallace Gilberry (he really is a nice guy – one time in Rama Jama’s I asked him if he was ready for the season to start and he replied, “Yes, sir”) who ran a 4.9, which is pretty middle of that pack. Of course it comes nowhere near Marcus Howard’s (Georgia) 4.47. Way to go Simeon! Yeah, that’s a defensive lineman running faster than you. I bet that makes the scouts drool.

Here is an instance of relearning what John Parker Wilson and I already knew – Quentin Groves is wicked fast (relatively). He was listed with the linebackers , but ran a 4.57, which is third amongst invited athletes who played on the line in college. A few othe SEC notables:

Jonathan Goff (Vandy) 4.63

Curtis Gatewood (Vandy) 4.74

Derrick Harvey (Florida) 4.8

The other Alabama notable in the draft, DJ Hall, was a little less than average for receivers with a 4.55. DeSean “Goodbye Tennesee Secondary”(hell, who couldn’t say that) Jackson (Cal) ran a blistering 4.35 to lead the field. Andre “Bubba” Caldwell (Florida) represented with a smoking 4.35 and Kentucky’s Keenan Burton wasn’t far behind with a 4.43.

De’Cody Fagg (FSU) isn’t from the SEC but I like saying his name. Fagg (hee, hee) turned in a 4.63 but had you asked me in late September I would have said he was capable of a 4.20 easy as he left the burnt Alabama secondary to put the game in Jacksonville away.

Another fact to file in the “things you already knew” file, the Arkansas backfield with the exception of Dick (hee, hee – I can’t stop) is fast. McFadden’s well publicised 4.33 leads the group followed closely by Felix Jones’ 4.47 and Peyton Hillis’ 4.58 is nothing to laugh at, just ask LSU (or Simeon “4.7” Castille). The knowledge of their leaving the schedule every year makes me just ecstatic- Bobby Petrino, not so much.

What does all mean you ask. I have no freaking idea. Some say that 40 times are overrated and who am I to argue. It’s easy to make fun, but every one of these guys could run me down if they gave me a mile head start, just ask Clay Travis.

To me it says that the best athletes on Alabama’s team were fair to middlin’ and that was a big reason that the team was fair to middlin’. All things being equal, the team with the most talent wins. Alabama has not had the talent in quite a while and I believe that part of the giddiness of a lot of fans of the program lately is based on the fact that recruiting appears to be raising the level of talent. That relates to better football teams and more wins… over time.

Thanks to commenter Marcus Aurelius for the links and post idea.

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