One Big Question As Season Begins
Alabama opens the season at 11:21 a.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium hosting Kent State. For the first time in two years, Greg McElroy will not be the Alabama starting quarterback.
The Crimson Tide is one of 23 major college (FBS) teams starting a new man at quarterback in 2011. Four of those are in the Southeastern Conference. In addition to Bama, SEC teams with a first-time QB starter are Arkansas, Auburn, and Ole Miss. Many of those schools with a new quarterback starter have named him, but Alabama is still conducting tryouts.
Coach Nick Saban has said that two quarterbacks – sophomore A.J. McCarron (6-4, 205) and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims (6-2, 217) – can be expected to get about equal playing time in the season-opener.
McCarron was the back-up the past two years to McElroy and has limited experience, almost all of it mop-up work. Alabama keeps practices closed to the media, and even withheld quarterback statistics from the two fall camp scrimmages, but Saban said there was no clear-cut leader in the competition.
There are other questions. Saban has made it clear that freshman left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio will play in Saturday's game, but that doesn't mean he will start. Barrett Jones, an All-America candidate at guard, has been working at left tackle and left guard. One new starter will be Anthony Steen, who has taken over the right guard position held by Jones the past two seasons.
When Kouandjio is at left tackle – as a starter or otherwise – Jones moved to left guard, where Chance Warmack is the returning starter.
Center William Vlachos and right tackle D.J. Fluker are other returning starters in the offensive line.
In addition to the quarterback, Steen, and, possibly, Kouandjio, Bama is expected to have redshirt freshman DeAndrew White as first time starter at wide receiver. On defense, junior college transfer Jesse Williams is listed as a starter at end, senior Jerrell Harris at strongside linebacker, and Dequan Menzie at cornerback.
Alabama has had 13 true freshmen start season opening games since freshmen regained their eligibility from the NCAA in 1973. A pair of true freshmen started the season opener in 2007 (LB Rolando McClain, CB Kareem Jackson), 2008 (WR Julio Jones, LB Dont'a Hightower) and 2010 (P Cody Mandell, PK Cade Foster). Alabama has started at least one true freshman in the season opener in five of the last six seasons as left tackle Andre Smith started his first game at Alabama in the 2006 season opener against Hawaii.
This will be the first meeting between Alabama and Kent State. Kent State is the alma matter of Saban, who played for the Golden Flashes and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Don James at Kent State in 1973 and 1974.
Alabama is ranked second in the nation in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls.
Kent State has an all-time record of 0-21 when playing against a ranked team.
In the past three years, Alabama has won 36 football games – a 12-2 record in 2008, a 14-0 mark in 2009, and l0-3 last season. That 12 wins per year average has given Bama a tie with TCU for second greatest number of wins in the period. Boise State has won 38 games in the past three years. Florida is fourth with 34.
Alabama has compiled a 92-21-3 all-time record in season-opening games, a winning percentage of 80.6. The Tide has won nine in a row on opening –day. Dating back to the 1977 season, Alabama is 29-4 in season opening games and since 1991 the Crimson Tide is 17-2.
This is the 12th consecutive season for Alabama to open the season with a non-conference opponent.
One reason Alabama has done well in season-opening games is Crimson Tide scoring. Alabama has scored 350 points in its last nine season-openers, an average of 38.9 points per game in wins over Middle Tennessee (39-34 in 2002), South Florida (40-17 in 2003), Utah State (48-17 in 2004), Middle Tennessee (26-7 in 2005), Hawaii (25-17 in 2006), Western Carolina (52-6 in 2007), Clemson (34-10 in 2008), Virginia Tech (34-24 in 2009), and San Jose State (48-3 last year).
The 52-6 win over Western Carolina provided the most points in a season-opening game since a 66-0 season-opening over California to open the 1973 season.
Alabama has scored 40 or more points in its season-opener 27 time, but only nine times since World War II.
The Alabama record for most points in a season-opening game came in an 89-0 win over Delta State in 1951.
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