29 August 2008
I've given you an individual profile of every Alabama player as well as a breakdown of each position on the team. With those done that really just leaves one thing - the overview of what I expect the team to do in 2008.
Any conversation about the 2008 season has to begin with the Tide's schedule - it is brutal. Alabama's four road conference games are at four of the six toughest places that Bama can play. There is no cakewalk to Nashville or leisurely trip to Lexington. Alabama has to run the gauntlet of Fayetteville, Athens, Knoxville, and Baton Rouge.
As if that weren't bad enough there is Saturday's game in the Georgia Dome against #9 Clemson. Throw in a highly ranked Auburn team at home and you end up with 1/2 of the Tide's schedule being what I would classify as tough games.
The other six games on the schedule do not offer the same extreme challenge, but it would be wrong to call them guaranteed wins. Alabama has lost its last two games to Mississippi State and it took getting a huge instant replay call against Ole Miss in 2007 to seal that victory. Kentucky is a vastly improved program over the past few seasons, so the Wildcats are not the pushover that they used to be. And before you count Tulane, Western Kentucky, and Arkansas State as guaranteed wins I simply remind you that we all thought the same thing about Louisiana-Monroe last season.
I don't mean to paint a picture of doom and gloom here. I fully expect that Alabama will be a much improved football team. There has been an amazing influx of talent come into the program over the last two months. The returning 60 scholarship guys have had a year and half now in Nick Saban's system; plenty of time to "buy in" or to become a part of "the process", to use two catch phrases that the coach likes to use. That combination has put the Tide into a position where I believe that each game on the schedule is winnable.
Does that mean that I think that Alabama will be 12-0 at the conclusion of November? No. Each game on the schedule being winnable and every game on the schedule being winnable are two different things. Going undefeated over the course of an SEC season takes a great deal of luck on top of all of the actual football things that have to happen. It also takes a tremendous amount of depth and experience, something that Alabama does not have.
With that idea in mind I am not going to go game by game on the schedule and give a prediction at this point. I'll do a prediction each week that reflects my feelings on where the team is, and where the opponent is, at that point in the season. Trying to guess how Arkansas will play in week four of their new offense, or how Auburn's quarterback situation will play out,at this point in the season would not be a real analytical exercise. It would simply be a wild guess.
Instead what I will do is break the season down into games that Bama should win, games that will be very tough to win, and games that Alabama is likely to win:
Games that Alabama should win - 3 - Tulane, Western Kentucky, and Arkansas State.
Losing to Louisana-Monroe was a horrible thing, but in the long road it might have been the best thing that could have happened to the program. With all due respect to La-Monroe, this was rock bottom. It gave the players a chance to see what can happen if they don't do the things asked of them by the coaching staff. I can not imagine, having experienced that last season, that anyone on this staff or this team being willing to go through it again. Bama should win all 3 of these games.
Games that will be very tough to win - 6 - Clemson, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn.
If Alabama wants to have a solid season the Tide needs to win two of these games. If they want to play in a New Year's bowl game they need to win three. Arkansas is a game that I would put into the "likely to win" category if it were being played in Tuscaloosa. But Fayetteville is a tough place to win. This is the game out of this group that is the easiest to win, with the LSU game likely being the toughest. If Alabama can beat Arkansas and close out the regular season with a win over Auburn, that would the Tide in position to have a good season. [ED from Ell - he's crazy. LSU is overrated, and Georgia is a much
Games that Alabama is likely to win - 3 - Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State.
If any of these three games were on the road they might fall into a different category, but they will all be played in Tuscaloosa. I know that Mississippi State won its last game in Bryant-Denny, but something tells me that 3-in-a-row isn't going to happen for Coach Croom. Winning these three games is essential to Bama having any shot at being in contention fort he SEC West. There simply can not be a lapse like we saw in Starkville last season.
So how does the Tide end up?
Best case scenario would of course be 12-0, but realistically I think that 10-2 would be the best that anyone could hope for.
Conversely, worst case would be 0-12, but realistically I think that 6-6 would be about as bad as things should go.
The reality will likely fall somewhere in the middle. The range is likely to be somewhere between 8-4 and 10-2.
My guess - 9-3.