FanIQ College Football Top 25: No. 25 Alabama Crimson Tide Preview

Year 2 Of Nick Saban Era Brings Higher Expectations Despite Inexperience

8/4/08 in NCAAF   |   tpowell25   |   1627 respect

Practice has begun, college football is less than a month away and we're ready. Over the next four week we'll be counting down with fan previews of the Top 25 teams as voted on by you. First up is No. 25 Alabama, written by life long Tide fan tpowell25

Suggested Team Slogan
:  Roll Tide Roll! Just Not 7 On Parole!

What we learned in 2007:  One thing we learned that many Bama fans didn't realize is, the presence of Nick Saban did not automatically mean we were going to win.  More importantly, it wasn't automatic that we would end our losing streak to Auburn (hence the addition to the team slogan above).  

We learned that we were at least 2 years away from competing for the SEC championship (some people still haven't figured that out yet) and we are learning that it takes time to build a winning team again.  We learned that John Parker Wilson is a great quarterback when he has about 10 seconds to throw the ball, but not so much when there is pressure in his face.  We learned that we have a great young team that needs time to learn, but at least we have that distinction.  Above all else, we have learned that there is a winner patroling the sidelines again in Tuscaloosa.  As long as he stays true to his word and weathers the pressure that is Alabama football, a winning tradition will once again be restored to the program.  But we have to crawl before we can walk.

Expectations in 2008:  Are you kidding me?  Beat Auburn!  But if we're getting technical...  This is going to be one of those iffy seasons for Bama.  The Tide is extremely thin on the defensive side of the ball, and as everyone knows, a good defense is what wins championships.  If Bama is going to compete in the SEC this season, then this highly tauted incoming freshmen group is going to have to contribute big time.  The players we have in place are very good and very seasoned, but no depth on the D side could hurt in the long run.  

There shouldn't be any problems on the offensive side of the ball.  John Parker Wilson should be a lot better this season, both physically and mentally.  The good news is, he is being pushed hard by backups and incoming freshman Star Jackson.  If Wilson faulters at all like he did mentally last season, Coach Saban won't hesitate to plug in a backup who is foaming at the mouth to get in there.  

Look for the running backs to lead this offense, led by Sophomore Terry Grant.  He was on fire last season before he was sidelined by a nagging injury, but is raring to go this season with the help of Roy Upchurch and Glen Coffee.  They won't have a problem getting holes to run through with a returning O-line that did a great job last season.

Big men on campus
:  Junion offensive tackle Andre Smith.  Smith has been a stud since joining the Tide his freshman season.  Senior Rashad Johnson led the team with 6 interception last season and will anchor the defensive backs.  Senior center Antoine Caldwell will lead the offensive line.  He is a three year starter and has been nominated for several post season awards.  Senior quarterback John Parker Wilson.  We are hoping that his spine has miraculously grown back and can lead the Tide against the tough teams.  A three year starter, you would think so.  Sophomore linebacker Rolando McClain and junior return man Javier Arenas will both be big impact players at their position.  Each of these players are preseason nominated players for several awards, but awards don't mean crap if they don't get it done.  But all of these guys will be a fart in the wind if newcomer Julio Jones steps in and contributes immediately.  Jones is the big name in the #1 recruiting class brought in by Saban in his first full season of recruiting.  The WR position has been vacated by a few seniors that are gone, and he can make a name for himself right off the bat.

What could (will) hold the Tide back this season?  Plain and simple:  inexperience.  Alabama is going to be counting on too many youngins to contribute right away.  If they step up, it could be a great season.  But if the youth and inexperience shows, it could be another let down rebuilding year.  Let's hope for Bama's sake, and Saban's health, these guys pull through and win a game or two for us.

There are a few things I see happening this season.  (1)  I see JP Wilson's backbone collapsing and giving way for redshirt freshman Nick Fanuzzi or true freshman Star Jackson to step in.  Saban publically showed his distaste for Wilson's leadership last season, and that doesn't spell succuess for him.  (2)  Incoming freshman will leave a big impression on the Tide this season.  Led by Julio Jones, this is going to be a fun squad to watch.  Can they hold up and make the big plays when needed?  Only time will tell.  But for my T.V's sake (as well as my windows, my laptop, and anything else not nailed down in my house), I hope they surprise us and get out of the gates on the right foot.  (3)  Nick Saban will publically denounce Alabama football fans.  You can see that he has been holding his toungue so far.  He didn't realie how rabid fans down here were.  He will either get a grip on the situation, or he will be calling Bill Curry to find out where the best place is to get a window replaced.

Cheerleader grade:  A+  Wait wait wait!  Let me explain.  There's nothing like seeing these beautiful southern belles running around the sideline yelling cheers that end in "ya'll".  They have nothing but class and have a solid white smile tattooed to their face 24/7 (tattoo is required for Bama cheerleaders).  Cheerleaders are supposed to get you into the game and crazed.  Well, they do (see above photo). 

2008 schedule and results:  I'm going to try to be realistic about this.  But don't count on it a whole lot.

8/30 vs Clemson (at Georgia Dome) - Strong start but can't overcome the athleticism of the Tigers.  This better be the only Tigers that beat Bama this season.
9/6 vs Tulane - They can thank Louisiana-Monroe for the beat down that they will get.
9/13 vs Western Kentucky - See above
9/20 @ Arkansas - Bobby Petrino gets welcomed to the SEC.  If he is smart, he will just leave a note at the door and not show up.
9/27 @ Georgia - I want to say we will put up a fight.  But the preseason #1 team will be tough in Athens.
10/4 vs Kentucky - No Woodson, no problem.
10/18 vs Ole Miss - Houston Nutt:  Different team, same result.  This should be a pretty good game.  But this Nutt won't fall far from the tree.
10/25 @ Tennessee - Tennessee should be favored in this game.  But I'm going to bank on all of the media distractions messing with Fulmer's head.  A man can dream, right?
11/1 vs Arkansas State - A homecoming beat down.  (again, see Tulane note)
11/8 @ LSU - Saban's first trip back to Baton Rouge.  Too bad this didn't happen a year later.  The Tide won't quite be ready for this game.  But it will be a fight and it will get ugly.  That's just the media coverage...
11/15 vs Mississippi State - Sorry Sylvester Croom.  But 2 in-a-row leaves just enough of a bad taste in our mouths to bring you back down to earth.
11/29 vs Auburn - Auburn may have the better team on paper, but there is no way we can let 7 in-a-row happen.  Not in T-Town.

If my math is right, that comes out to 8-4.  Yea, I'm overconfident.  But when you play in the SEC, anything can happen.  And that includes having to refurbish your home after each season.

Alabama preseason football poll.

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8/5/08   |   Jubanator14   |   367 respect

Julio Jones should also have been smart and became a Sooner though.

8/4/08   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

Great as always, Tom. It's Julio Jones, right? Can you list his height and weight? He's a freak.

8/4/08   |   CriticalFanatic

(Edited by CriticalFanatic)

That's an awesome opening game vs Clemson. Kudos to both schools for having the cajones to start out like that.

If Juliu Jones looks anything like he does in his high school film, he's going to have an immediate impact and allow JPW to get rid of the ball a step sooner.

Nice preview, Tom. I don't think 8-4 is asking too much.