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Well, here we sit a mere four days from the first game, trying to work, and not having much success. I’ve read until my eyes hurt and it hasn’t even remotely quenched my thirst for football. There is but one thing that will do that and that my friends is actual live football (although Erin Andrews screen caps help).

This is the time of year that everyone tries to wrap the story lines and general predictions into neat little bundles. I’m not sure why, maybe to get the wanna-be fans that jumped on the bandwagon this past week up to speed. In my opinion, if you’re just tuning in now you aren’t a real fan anyway. You should have been with us back in February when my phone was blowing up with text messages like I was a fourteen-year-old girl every time Nick Saban landed another highly-touted recruit. Since he did this with consistency similar to the way Kenny Loggins recorded soundtrack music in the 1980’s, my phone was blowing up a lot.

You should have been here during Spring Practice as we clamored for the tiniest shred of news, no hope, that our team will be better this year and that yes, the dreaded streak will end.

You should have been here when the summer started when we were scrounging message boards to hear the latest rumors about who was in camp and who was going to be ineligible. When we were counting with calendars and hands and toes to determine exactly how many days there were left until the addiction would be fed. When we were planning tailgates and trying news recipes that tasted great and could be prepared successfully while impaired from a day of drinking or worse, while hungover from a night of drinking. When we were committing the schedule to memory. When we were planning road trips and booking flights and calling in favors for tickets and rooms from long-lost friends and relatives.

Just as long as you know that we know that you have a life other than football and that we resent that about you we’ll let you play along. Sure, be a fan when it’s convenient, but know that when you jump up and diss John Parker before it’s quite time to, we will know what a fair-weather, gained all your knowledge-listening-to-Finebaum-on-the-way-into-town, douchebag you really are.

Without further ado, here are my predictions, both bold and not-so-bold, for Alabama, the SEC, and college football in general this season.

Alabama’s Season – Even though I want to jump on the happy-feel-good vibes coming from the football complex, I’m sticking with my assessment earlier in the summer. 9-3 with losses to Clemson, Georgia, and LSU. I’ll get to Clemson in a minute but I really don’t think we can beat both the dawgs and the tigahs on the road.

The Streak with Auburn – will end this year. Don’t worry about reasoning or logic or the lucky underwear I’ll be wearing into Bryant-Denny. Six is enough. What I am more interested in though is how this empire Auburn has built will crumble when the only truly remarkable event of the greatest period of Auburn history ends. As bad as some Alabama fans have taken this streak, when it turns, I believe that the Aubs will take it much, much worse. I think we could handle the streak running to seven, or even eight (God forbid) better than they will take it when it ends. It seems sometimes like it is all they have. I want to predict that the winner of the Iron Bowl will represent the West in Atlanta, but that is just day-dreaming and is counter to my overall prediction. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it.

This is Phillip Fulmer’s last season in Knoxville – After opening with conference losses to Florida, Auburn, and Georgia the pitchfork wielding crowd will be at the gates. The second consecutive loss to Alabama will be more than even the annual cakewalk through November can overcome. I believe he’ll take his dignity and the lifetime Krispy Kreme rider in his contract and leave the program. And as I brush a tear (of absolutely satisfying mirthful glee) from my eye, I’ll wish him the best of luck with knowledge that the conference won’t be the same without him.

While starting in the Top Ten both West Virginia and Clemson will not finish there. I could give you my reasons but what the hell for, that’s just what’s going to happen. Write it down. (and notice that I’m still predicting a Clemson victory against the Tide).

The Spread Eagle will not fly. At least not in the vision that Auburn fans think it will. Your offense will still be similar to last seasons and the seasons before. Auburn wins by controlling the clocks and playing good defense. That’s what their talent does and Tuberville would be a fool to try to do differently like. It’s kinda like you in college, you did well with the girl-next-door type. She was cute and fun to be around. Yeah she wasn’t model material but she was acceptable. She was your wheelhouse and every time you forgot that and out kicked your coverage it ended badly and awkwardly for everybody involved. So you went back to the girl you saw studying at the library and left the cast of the Hills to the product sporting douchebag with not much substance but really sweet trust funds. Tommy Tuberville has never had product in his hair in his life. He ain’t taking anything over a 7 and-a-half out of the bar. He may try but after the lame attempts at being cool countered by the silly looks and under-her-breath comments to her friends he’ll go back to the wheel house. That’s why he’s the best damn coach in Auburn history (WEH!). By the Tennessee game, the Tigers will be pounding the ball up the middle and throwing on third and long.

I’m not sure what snitching-ass Tony Franklin will do our what the new company line will be to all the Auburn faithful, but you ain’t going to light it up and score gobs of points. Nor do you have to to win.

Sylvester Croom will not repeat last year’s success, but he won’t miss it by much. State will beat at leat two teams that they aren’t supposed to. Something tells me LSU is one of them but that just seems almost too crazy to write down.

Houston Nutt will not. Earlier I thought they would be better, but Jevan Snead beside, they still just aren’t going to have it. The losses to injury on the d-line are just way too much for them early in the season and a team like that needs something to build from – like say, a win – and they aren’t going to get it early in the year.

No team will run the table in the SEC and at least one of the teams in the championship game will have two losses. I don’t think I’m being Nostradomas here.

Baby Jesus and his end-zone dancing group of petty criminals will not win the National Championship. Or even the conference. [ eds. note:Jimmy Johns and Jeremy Elder (who was from Georgia by the way) think the Bulldogs string of misdemeanors (and assaults to be fair) are chicken shit.] As Rick Bragg said in All Over but the Shoutin, “Georgia is obnoxious anyway, with Herschel Walker they were unbearable”. Moreno is everything to the silver-britches about Hershel except that he isn’t Herschel. Would I love for him to be on my team, yes, but that’s beside the point. Richt and the Bulldogs are good and I’ve gone through this ad nauseum but the last seven games last year were special but they do not entitle you to walk into Miami a week after New Year’s day. In fact the only game they’ll play in Florida the whole year will be in Jacksonville and I just don’t see them beating Florida this year. It should be merciful though because Spurrier is already in Richt’s head and when they lose at Columbia the dreams should be back down to reality.

Alabama will lose to Clemson on Saturday. I believe that the game will be fantastic and I hope that I am wrong but Clemson has just seen this situation too much in comparison to Alabama. They played in the same location with just as hyped a crowd as will be there and Alabama, at least the freshman who are depended on for so much, has not. Alabama is just too young at too many positions. I hope I’m wrong and I’ll definitely be cheering for them to win but I’m setting emotion aside. You can look at every match-up on the field and Clemson wins it. Clemson’s O-line versus Alabama’s D-line might be the only exception but you’d logically have to say that given the unknown nature of each, the nod goes to Clemson who has more in support. If Alabama wins the game it will be because of an as-of-yet undetermined superiority in this battle.

Now for the promised links:

Gump for Heisman did a helluva job of predictions himself. These are hilarious. (HT:Gerry Dorsey)

Bama Sports Report takes a look at yesterday’s practice. These guys are quickly becoming one of my favorites and daily reads.

Senator Blutarsky links Barnhart’s AJ-C piece on the ESPN-SEC deal and add some insightful commentary.

Orson brings a hired gun to help channel your inner-defensive coordinator and you don’t even have to put on polyester shorts with a belt first.

In the early nineties the pop band Jesus Jones had a hit single that spoke to the changes that were taking place in the world around them. The chorus stated with wild-eyed fascination, “right here, right now, there is no other place I’d rather be.” While I was never particularly fond of the song, those words ring through my ears and mind at this time every year, nonetheless.  That statement is completely and utterly true.

Right here in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and right now, the first week of the college football season I believe that I am the person I am truly intended to be. The first game is three days away and the first time that my beloved Crimson Tide takes the field is still some 129 hours away and yet, at 5:50 this morning I jumped out of bed with a start – ready to get the day begun in order that it may be done and I would be 24 hours closer to my treasure.

There is spring in Paris, or a bright winter’s morning somewhere in the Rockies, or a warm summer day in New England, or even a bright fall afternoon in the Smokies, and they are all wonderful. But, to me, the first week of football season in Tuscaloosa trumps them all. There is a viscous feeling in the air. A certain force that occupies that air, thicker as you approach the campus, that can best be described as electricity. Were I richer than imagination and the means to be anywhere in the world were at my disposal, I would choose to be in West-Central Alabama right now everyday of the week and twice on Sunday.

Anyone who has ever taken a retriever hunting and watched them perk up when the birds start flying, or been riding a horse near a cow that was bred to move livestock, or a new-born baby suckle it mother’s breast, or any other number of things that were just “meant to be” knows of what I speak. I feel as if I were created to be a small part of what goes on here at this time of the year. This is football season in the Deep South and it is a much a part of who I am as my brown hair or blue eyes.

I am also smart enough to know that both my feelings and this location are not unique. There are legion of you just like me in college towns and big cities all over this region and country, although I believe that the farther that you get from the South the more rapidly that number diminishes.

Yes, I love the entire football season, but there is something special about this particular week. I believe that it probably is the fact that the slate is clean. Every team and their hopes for perfection are unblemished. There is nothing but possibility. If hope springs eternal, then the First Week is a massive up-welling of promise and desire. Anything is possible right now. Anything.

Had you told me that Michigan would lose to Appalachian State, USC would lose to Stanford, LSU would lose to Kentucky, or even that Alabama would lose to Louisiana-Monroe last year at this time I would have told you your were an idiot. The next four months hold more suspense and gut-wrenching twists and turns than the best novel I have read or movie that I have seen. There will be joy and heartbreak by varying degree based on the way the season plays out. I know that I can be supremely elated as I was when Alabama sent the orange-clad devils that call themselves Volunteers back to Tennessee with their heads hung low or that I can hang my head low in misery, like when I turned off the television in late November and told my dad, “next year they’ll end that damn streak” before I went quiet for a long while. But as bad as the lows are, as bad as the taunting and crowing get, the highs and joys of special victories keep me coming back, wanting more.

This week it is all possible. Never mind what the pundits and owners of streaks say. There is nothing but opportunity. My team sits with the same record as your team. Everyone is at the starting line and they all have the chance, however improbable, to finish first. The truly magnificent thing is that sometimes, the improbable does happen. Sometimes the horse on the outside breaks ahead right at the end and most everybody sits there stunned and for the “fool” holding the ticket with the long odds there is pure joy. The sun shines bright but softly on his cheek and his steps are just a fraction of an inch above the ground. For a few fleeting moments he is not bound by the laws of physics and he moves in his own “perfect” world. I am convinced that people that don’t truly love sports never know this feeling – where else in this cruel world are our faiths in others so handsomely rewarded.

Anyone that knows me well has heard me talk about the best part of every football game. I’m not talking about winning, because no matter how good you are, you will not win every game. No there is a part of every game that happens no matter what – the game could not be played without that moment – and it is what I crave even more than the victories. For football fans, our world is lived during regulation football, between the snap and the whistle, when dreams are realized or shattered. This time only equates to the forty-plus hours a year that the 12-13 games are played. I normally get to attend at least seven of those and maybe one or two that are away from Tuscaloosa but there is a moment in those handful of home games that I replay over and over in my mind.

It’s approaching the stadium and feeling the constant, steady noise that comes from the bodies that occupy it. It’s being crowded into lines and making sure that my beer cup is empty and thrown away, that my flask is adequately hidden and my ticket is in hand. That feeling that I’m here, I’m in as I go through the ticket-checkers stand and start the climb up the ramp. It’s the slight bounce and hop I get as I climb higher and higher and “Sweet Home Alabama” rings from the PA. It’s making my way to may seat and smiling, nodding, speaking to familiar faces and shaking hands of the people that have set near me for years; I don’t know their names but I have watched their children grow and asked how things were the way neighbors do, I’ve given pats on the shoulders when it didn’t go our way and hugged them as if they were family when it did. It’s rising from my seat when a hero of our country is honored and placing my had to my heart and singing the National Anthem, not because my voice adds to the harmony but because I am privileged to be able to. It the hair standing on my neck as the band plays its pre-game routine and it’s the utter joy that I feel as the players fill the tunnel and come onto the field. Those moments are perfect. There is no won or lost, there is only the contest that is to come. The analysis and predictions are forgotten and the game is to be played.

This week is one long, slighlty less hyped pre-game. It come only once every 52 weeks. It is here that I am happy to be and here that I would long to be if I weren’t.

Let’s play some ball!

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