Good To Be 1-0

Following the first major weekend of the college football season, about half the teams were unbeaten and about half the teams had yet to win a game. The few exceptions were those teams that will begin their seasons later, most of them this week. Teams with serious national championship aspirations need to win them all.

Alabama is on the right side of that 1-0 or 0-1 situation. Some teams that are 1-0 did not expect to be there. Can you say TCU? Many teams that are 0-1 are shocked. Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville had said this year's Tigers squad was stronger than the team that lost four first round NFL draft choices. Well, maybe Georgia Tech is USC. Auburn can take heart in knowing that a team that loses early in the season has a better chance of overcoming that setback than can a team losing late in the season. Still, after failing to impress the voters with an undefeated 1004 season, the prospects don't look great.

Southern Cal and Texas have to be thinking they are national championship contenders after impressive opening wins, although the Longhorns tuned up against a team expected to be one of the real national lightweights. Tennessee had all of its players out of stir, but still didn't make much of a national stir with its hang-on-for-your-life win over Alabama-Birmingham, which probably ranks as the fourth or fifth strongest team in the state of Alabama.

A team like Vanderbilt is happy to be 1-0, but probably doesn't have great expectations. Kentucky is not shocked to be 0-1, but disappointed nonetheless after losing to Louisville.

South Carolina is likely facing reality after a lackluster opening win, while Georgia, Florida, Mississippi State and Arkansas are likely pleased with big wins over little opponents.

It's hard to guige Bama. Bama's 26-7 win over Middle Tennessee was good in that the Tide got stronger as the game went along. It was bad in that Alabama allowed MTSU to hang close for a half.

The bottom line is that Alabama's margin of victory was about what should have been expected. The defense played about as expected, even with the necessity to adjust on the fly to the loss of middle linebacker Freddie Roach, who suffered an elbow injury covering a punt early in the contest.

No one is jumping up and down about the offensive performance, but it was cause for celebration to see quarterback Brodie Croyle, halfback Kenneth Darby, and fullback Tim Castille performing as if they had not been seriously injured and under a surgeon's knife in the past year.

A team can't win them all if it doesn't win the first one. The first one for Southern Miss, this week's opponent, will be this week. The Golden Eagles are practicing in Memphis after Hattiesburg was hit hard by Katrina. That storm also forced the postponement of its season-opener, which had been scheduled against Tulane.

Kickoff Saturday from Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 6:45 p.m. CDT with national television coverage by the cable network, ESPN2.

No one is suggesting that Alabama's comfortable win over MTSU puts Bama in the national championship picture.

Alabama has won national championships with opening games not unlike the victory over Middle Tennessee State. The Tide's most recent title, in 1992, started with a 25-8 win over Vanderbilt. The 1979 team, which also went undefeated and won the national championship, opened with a convincing 30-6 win over Georgia Tech.

In 1978 the Tide opened with a heavyweight, beating Nebraska 20-3. Bama's difficult schedule that year enabled Alabama to win the title despite suffering a loss to Southern Cal early in the season. The Trojans lost late in the year to open the door for Bama and Penn State to play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama's 1973 team was the last that could win a national championship even though losing its final game, a 24-23 heartbreaker to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. That powerful Crimson Tide opened the year with a 66-0 win over California.

Alabama won three national championships in the 1960s and opened the year against Georgia all three of those seasons. In 1961 the Tide defeated the Bulldogs 32-6 en route to an 11-0 season. In 1964 the Bama was a 31-3 winner over Georgia. In 1965 Alabama lost its opener to Georgia, 18-17, but was still able to come back and take the national crown.

But it's recommended that any team with national championship aspirations not try to dig out of a 1-0 hole. Or even from 1-1.

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