The one argument I've heard consistently in regards to Alabama not going undefeated this year: nobody goes undefeated in the SEC 3 years in a row. How exactly is this argument legitimate? Player personnel and coaching staff should be the prevalent arguments, not history.
History has shown a starting QB doesn't get taken out of the game from injury in the first quarter of a championship game, but Colt McCoy can tell you exactly how that feels. History can show you trends, but can also show you when trends don't apply. This can be one of those years.
Allow me to break down by each game why I think an undefeated season is a great possibility:
- 9/4 SAN JOSE STATE - This game will strictly show the world who's running the team for the year. Alabama typically doesn't run up the score on opponents, so it is not out of the question to see 2nd, 3rd or even 4th string players getting playing time in this game.
- 9/11 PENN STATE - They won't need a goal line stance to win this one, but it will be nice to see Joe Paterno come to Alabama before he's done coaching. Penn State will be going into the year with 3 sophomore and 2 freshmen QBs that have yet to take a snap. They have a decent running attack and always a steady defense, but their inexperience at key positions, including QB, equals lunch being eaten.
- 9/18 at DUKE - Most football fans will look at the two school names and immediately think the worst. While I believe Alabama will win this game by a good margin, don't think for a second it won't be an interesting game. David Cutcliffe has done a great job building that program up from what can only be described as a terrible team. If he takes Duke to a bowl game this year, there is no debate who the Coach of the Year is.
But for this game, obviously Alabama will overwhelm at every single position on the field.
- 9/25 at ARKANSAS- I wrote the following statement to my brother, verbatim, in an email back in February, and the idea seems to be catching on:
"Early prediction: Ryan Mallett will be this year's Jevan Snead. He will have unbelievable hype and Heisman talk, but teams like Alabama will show what he is, which is all hype. Anyone who watched Arkansas's bowl game should've seen signs of what's to come. He is not good enough. He missed wide open throws. They still have issues on defense, so Mallett will be Snead and Arkansas will be this year's Ole Miss: popular sleeper pick that won't amount to anything."
While I only slightly regret the tone of that statement, I still stand by it. He managed to throw 15-36 against East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. Read that again.
Despite my previous statement, I do think Mallett has the tools to be really good, but I attended last year's match-up with Alabama, and their defense was too complex for him to develop any type of consistency. His QB rating plummeted by each attempt. Alabama's secondary this year may be green, but the game plan isn't, and these players will be prepared.
- 10/2 FLORIDA - We know this story. They will be very good, but Alabama is at home and still has more talent and a better game plan. Don't forget: UF's DC Charlie Strong is the new Louisville coach. So, they lost their offensive mastermind last year (Dan Mullen) and their defensive wizard this year. Well, at least Urban is still there to run the special teams.
I like to joke, and I do understand Florida has revenge on their mind, but it will not be enough to fuel them to victory. Also something to note: in the unfortunate event that John Brantley would get hurt, in this game or before, they are in trouble, because only 2 freshmen could replace him. That's it.
- 10/9 at SOUTH CAROLINA - I'm not sure I buy most of what Spurrier has been feeding us about his QB, but I don't think Stephen Garcia will be any better. The only problem with that is he would need to be a Heisman-caliber player to elevate that team, which I don't think he will ever be, and there is nothing wrong with that. It should not be all on him to win every game, and I get that feeling from their team. It's not his fault the coaches call the same end-zone pass play 3 times in a row against Bama's secondary.
This year will be much of the same: Bama will stop their offense and use 2 RBs to rush for more than 200 yards to win a close one on the road.
- 10/16 OLE MISS - A weak schedule is their only advantage before playing Alabama. It has to be the weakest schedule next year for any SEC team top to bottom.
Last year it amazed me how long it took them to realize they had Dexter McCluster in their backfield. By the time they did, the year was almost over. That doesn't invoke a ton of confidence in their ability to utilize the talent they have. But now he and their other playmakers are gone on offense. They also didn't recruit any immediate help and lost one of their QBs they planned on using.
The simple fact they are bringing in such a risky player in Jeremiah Masoli should give an indication as to how weak their offense will be. Even if he plays immediately, Alabama has shown their ability to stop scrambling QBs.
I have read a lot about how strong the front 7 on defense is for the Rebels, and they will be tested by the best RB combo in the country. But if that group is formidable, I expect Bama to air it out a lot more than usual, as they have the tools to do so.
- 10/23 at TENNESSEE - This game last year almost put a stop to the perfect season. It will not be that close this year. With a new coach, program, QB, etc. it simply will not be enough to stop Bama. More than 12 points will be scored, as Monte Kiffin is not there anymore, which is all they really had to begin with last year. I do respect what they have done so far, hiring a coach who probably won't incite riots when he leaves.
Tennessee has simply lost too many playmakers at too many positions, from both graduation and transfers. I never thought in my life I would say Jonathan Crompton will be missed, but their current QB situation isn't exactly ideal. No matter how talented, I think losing Bryce Brown actually helps this team. They have talent at that position outside of him, and the whole situation was too USC-diva-like.
- 11/6 at LSU - Their top WR and RB are gone, from an offense not potent to being with. QB play is still a question mark, which would only be acceptable if you had a top-tier running attack. While I can applaud their efforts in attempting to put the ball in the hands of Russell Shepard, that cannot be a sign of confidence, as he has little experience and was primed to be a QB at the college level.
But anyone who has been to, seen or heard about this game/rivalry knows it will be close from start to finish. Without a reliable offensive attack or the ability to stop the running game, Alabama will pull this out again.
- 11/13 MISSISSIPPI STATE - They actually have a respectable schedule next year. The 31-0 outcome doesn't reflect the type of team they had last year, as they played better than most would have expected. And I expect the same this year. They will compete very well, but it simply won't be enough.
I wish there was more to say about this game, but given last year's outcome and what both teams have returning, not much will change. We will see if Mullen's spread attack will be any more effective, given his incredible track record of spread QBs going to the NFL. Hopefully you see the sarcasm oozing from that sentence.
- 11/19 GEORGIA STATE - Alabama will catch hell the entire week for scheduling this game, but nobody will mention the fact that the pay out this school receives will be tremendous in helping them grow as a football team.
The transfers they picked up from other top schools with help as well, including former Bama QB Star Jackson. Even in their first year, they should do well in their division. Not in this game though. You will see plenty of future Tide stars get a chance to shine.
- 11/26 AUBURN - Last year's game was legendary, but I guarantee every player understands this year cannot go down like that again. I felt like last year Auburn jumped out early from a few well-executed trick plays. If you watched the rest of the game, their offense fell flat in part because Bama's defense locked them down. I envision much of the same from Auburn.
While their offense may continue to thrive, their problems lay on the other side of the ball. Hopefully I'm not the only person who believes Mark Ingram will take last year's output personally and absolutely run wild.
They will not stop Alabama on the quest for another championship, but I will say this is probably the toughest test of the year, for the same reason that exists every year: Rivalry game. Every player will show up for this. Too bad for Auburn that will hold true for every Bama player.
Going unscathed in the SEC is incredibly difficult, but Alabama has shown how to overcome a ton of adversity before. With the level of talent and coaching they have, finishing undefeated in 2010 looks very attainable.