The dreaded hangover.
It's that rarest affliction reserved solely for those teams who have recently spent time on the highest mountain peak of college football. For the Crimson Tide, it starts with the Michigan game this year. The resurgent Big Ten team that feels like Alabama. They have found that special coach to get them back to the top.
Then it’s at Arkansas, at LSU and The Iron Bowl. All top teams. All scheming to take away 'Bama's opportunity to repeat.
Those are the potential dream killers in the way of this team making history. However, there are four other teams on the schedule who are flying low and aiming high. Four other potential ambushes along the way to football glory.
The Tide and Tigers have met three times with Alabama winning twice. The last game was an Alabama win in 1978. The only Alabama loss was 20-7 on the first game of the season in 1975.
The Bear entered the ‘75 season with a No.2 ranking. The opening game loss to unranked Missouri at home dropped the Tide to No.13 in the polls.
They spent the rest of the year slowly climbing back up the polls as they won 11 in a row, including a Sugar Bowl win over No.7 Penn State, 13-7. The loss to a Missouri team that finished the year with a 6-5 record cost that Alabama team a national championship.
A couple of things are very similar between this year’s teams and the 1975 versions of both. Alabama most definitely could win 11 or more games this year. While Missouri looks more like a 6-5 team, just like in 1975.
The Tide and Aggies have played four times with Alabama winning three. It is interesting to note that the only loss by the Tide was 20-16, in the 1967 Cotton Bowl. Bear Bryant coached the Tide (of course) and the Aggies were coached by third year head coach Gene Stallings.
Alabama came into that game 8-1-1, ranked No. 7 while the Aggies were 6-4 and unranked. Even though Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler ran for two touchdowns, the heavily favored Tide couldn’t overcome the 20-10 lead the Aggies built in the third quarter.
Alabama had finished the ‘66 season at 11-0. Although they were voted No. 1 in the preseason, that year, they somehow were shut out for the national title in the voting by a 9-0-1 Notre Dame team who didn’t get to play in a bowl. The following year-prior to the Cotton Bowl loss-their only loss was at Tennessee.
The 2012 Aggies have the No. 5 rated running back unit, along with the No. 2 rated offensive line unit in the SEC according to Phil Steele’s preseason magazine rankings. They have a new coach in Kevin Sumlin, whose Houston teams averaged over 400 yards per game passing in his four years there.
This team should be manageable but can be dangerous. The game is at home, but it’s scheduled on November 10, just a week after the trip to Baton Rouge and LSU.
In 2007, Nick Saban’s first Alabama team rolled into Starkville and totted home a 17-12 loss. That Tide team was coming off a 41-34 loss to LSU the week before, while Mississippi State was in the midst of Sylvester Croom’s best season at 8-5.
Mississippi State had some tough luck games last year. They were only 4 plays short of a 10-3 year and a win over No.3 LSU. Their head coach, Dan Mullins, can coach.
This is the type of team that needs a couple or three bounces to go their way to win against 'Bama. But, they will keep the game close enough so if those bounces come, they are capable of breaking hearts.
“You never know about a football player until he has played against Alabama.” – General Robert R. Neyland
“You found out what kind of person you were when you played against Tennessee” – Paul “Bear” Bryant
Some of you younger folks probably don’t get into this stuff like your parents and grandparents. But, this used to be the premier rivalry of the SEC. Between the two teams, they are first and second in the SEC in all time wins, conference championships, national championships, bowl games played and bowl games won.
Lately, Alabama has definitely had the better of it, winning the last five meetings. According to some message board respondents, that means that Alabama “owns them.”
This series is full of mini streaks by both teams. As a matter of fact, when UT won 35-24 in 2001, the Vols had won seven straight in the series. Back then, some of their fans were the ones talking about “owning.” As of right now, the series stands at 49-38-7 in favor of Alabama.
If Dooley is going to make it with the Vols, he must make some real noise in the SEC this year. The game is played in Knoxville and expect several offensive wrinkles-especially if UT has lost to Florida earlier in the year.
To me, this is the more dangerous game for Alabama than the Michigan or Arkansas game. I expect them to be ready for Michigan and the Razorbacks just won’t be able to score enough against 'Bama’s defense.
This game is also the most respectful of all SEC rivalries I’ve known. Win or lose, true fans of both teams have always treated each other with civility. A tradition handed down by two of the greatest coaches ever associated with the game.