'We owe them one'

If fans think they're anxious for this Saturday's match-up with Oklahoma, they ought to talk to the Tide players. <br><br>"We owe them one--big time," defensive end Antwan Odom said Tuesday.

It's not that Odom doesn't respect the Sooners, because he definitely does. But given the circumstances of last year's game in Norman, the Alabama players have reason to want a second shot at Oklahoma--this time on their home field in Tuscaloosa.

BamaMag.com Editor Kirk McNair was there last year and recalled what happened. Oklahoma roared out to a 23-3 halftime lead. But Alabama took over in the second half, man-handling the Sooners on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Tide took a 27-23 lead, but then faltered in the waning moments. Oklahoma got a long drive to go ahead 30-27, and then with two minutes to play a freak fumble by quarterback Tyler Watts, who was attempting to pass, led to a mop-up clinching touchdown by the Sooners.

Odom and the other Tide veterans want a second shot at the Sooners.

Footballs have a way of taking funny bounces. Last year the football--and the game--slipped just beyond Bama's reach. The players remember. And they want another shot.

"Everybody on our team thinks that," Odom said.

Prior to the current series, Alabama and Oklahoma had only met twice before. Last year's match-up attracted national attention as the two storied programs went at it. And if anything, this year's game is even bigger. Oklahoma enters the game ranked first in the nation, sporting what many are claiming is the best defense in college football.

Odom and his defensive teammates have heard the talk. "I don't think about what they're saying much," he explained. "I always say ‘Don't talk it, Bring it.'

"Oklahoma is good. When the game is over, whichever team won we'll say has the best defense."

A pre-season All-SEC selection, Odom is a pretty fair defender in his own right. In Saturday's season-opening victory over South Florida, he totaled two tackles (both for a loss), two quarterback hurries, one sack, one forced fumble and even had a pass breakup to his credit.

But he wasn't satisfied. "I could have played better," Odom said. "I made a lot of mistakes. I missed some assignments and lost contain a couple of times. I got close to the quarterback a lot, but I should have had one or two more sacks."

His 10 quarterback sacks led the Tide team last season, ranking Odom seventh nationally. This year he's starting full time, so his expectations have gone up.

"My goal is 20 sacks for the season," he related. "I figure so long as I'm getting more playing time this year, then I ought to double my number from last year."

At 6-5, 277 pounds, Odom has prototype size for defensive end. Add in excellent speed and strength, and it's evident why the junior lineman is Bama's top pro prospect.

Antwan Odom is rated the top pro prospect on the Alabama defense. (Associated Press photo)

"I like to watch Jevon Kearse and Simeon Rice in the NFL," Odom explained. "I'll watch their games and study their moves, try to pick up something I can use."

Georgia's David Pollack, who led the SEC last season in sacks, is also on Odom's "watch list." Odom explained, "In the SEC I'd say David Pollack. He's a player that hustles all the time. I'd like to imitate that."

Odom will see Pollack up close and personal when the Tide travels later this season to Athens for a game against Georgia. But in the meantime, he'll have to settle for TV.

"With our games on Saturdays, I don't get to watch many college games," Odom said. "If they're on when I get back after our games, I'll watch them.

"But only while I'm in bed resting."

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