30 August 2010
As we ease back into football season, it's once again Crimson and White Roundtable time. Be sure to see what other Bama bloggers have to say about the following three questions.
1. What are your expectations for this season?
In my heart of hearts, I know that a third consecutive undefeated regular season is unlikely. The last time Alabama lost a regularly scheduled game was November 24, 2007 on a cold night in Auburn. I can't imagine that 365 days from now that would still be the case. It's just too hard to pull off.
That being said, Alabama would be a favorite in every game on their schedule at this point. Arkansas and South Carolina stand out as teams poised to take advantage of our weaknesses early and on the road, but I don't have a lot of confidence in either team. It'll be intriguing to see what the Gamecocks look like against clearly inferior competition Thursday night against Southern Miss. Arkansas had better learn to play defense and block for Ryan Mallet if they want to threaten the Tide.
We get the toughest test - Florida - at home. The only bad thing that happened the last time the Gators were in Tuscaloosa was after the Tide had administered a brutal beating, and should have been mopping up.
Late in the year, the always-talented LSU squad would be scarier if the man in the hat wasn't still on the bayou.
Then there are the Tigers. Auburn should need another year or two of seasoning until they're ready to beat the Tide. Unless Cam Newton is as good as some Auburn followers would have you believe.
All in all, I don't expect the Tide to be undefeated heading to Atlanta, but I certainly don't expect that won't be the case.
All that rounds out to this: I do expect Alabama to play in Glendale, Arizona next January.
2. What players do you expect to stand out?
If my first expectation comes to pass, then it will be because the defense steps up early and often. That means we have standout years from Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and BJ Scott. Yes, I know Scott isn't slated to start, but I'll bet you $5 he's in on the first play in some capacity - whether it's the star position or somewhere else. And he'll play plenty. Expecting "stand out" play from true freshman is usually folly, so I won't go there.
If the Tide rolls, it'll be through the rapid development of players in the defensive secondary. Fortunately, Bama has the exact right coaching staff for that sort of development.
3. What do you think will be the biggest difference between this team and the 2009 squad?
We'll lack a reliable special teams game. The defense will be diminished, but the biggest difference will be on special teams.
Fundamentally, that means we'll see tighter games if the offense isn't clicking on all cylnders. This team's special teams loses the Tennessee game last year. The specialists will be uneven - by the nature of their inexperience.
Javier Arenas averaged 15 yards per punt return and 29 per kickoff return. Julio Jones is an exceptional talent (and had similar numbers on punt return average), but expecting him to equal the best return man in Alabama history is a tall order.
In their four years, the combination of Brian Selman and PJ Fitzgerald never mishandled a snap on a field goal or extra point attempt. There are new guys in both those spots. Expecting that pace again is tough.
And the special teams struggles are the most frustrating. And can be among the most costly. If Alabama loses a regular season game this year, expect there to be a special teams miscue that haunts your nightmares for weeks and weeks after.
So, we start on a note of optimism, and close the opposite way. That sounds about righ.
As we close in on kickoff, we hope to have our printable depth chart and roster ready to go. It should be a fun week as we get ready for football!
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