USM @ Alabama
This game takes on such a different feel after Hurricane Katrina. The Golden Eagles have been relocated to Memphis, many of them had their homes destoyed by the storm. This game is the only normal event they'll experience for quite some time. Hattiesburg would have had the same devastation as the Mississippi coast, the town just doesn't have as many buildings. The city these guys were recruited to will never be the same. It's only natural to expect USM to come out with incredible emotion. They are the first team directly affected by the hurricane to play a football game. LSU plays later that night, Tulane won't play until September 17th. They will have the eyes of an entire region watching and rooting for them.
But emotion rarely lasts past the first few series. Eventually, the stress that comes with being away from home and loved ones will take its toll. Alabama's offense has looked pretty anemic against the Golden Eagles over the past few years, but the co-engineer of USM's hybrid defense is in Columbia now. Alabama has attempted just 16 passes the last two years against Southern Miss. Brodie Croyle will throw that many times in the first half. The Bama defense hasn't allowed Southern Miss to score an offensive touchdown in 13 quarters, that shouldn't change. The strength of USM's offense is their line, but just a little pressure on QB Dustin Almond usually results in interceptions. Bama's secondary will have little trouble going man-to-man with these receivers, allowing Joe Kines to call blitz after blitz after blitz.
This could, however, easily turn into a typical, ugly USM-Bama game if Brodie and his receivers take a while to get going again. Alabama can win this game by not throwing a single pass, and if Mike Shula feels it's not there, he's shown before he has no problem pounding out a 17-3 win. I think Brodie and his receivers put on a show Saturday. John Parker Wilson will get some signifigant time in the second half, so will Jimmie Johns. Depending on how well those second and third teamers play late, Bama could win this game by 25-30 points.
Scott's Prediction: 35-10 Bama
But just getting back on the field is a victory in itself for the players and fans of Southern Miss. They'll be playing for a lot more than just the final score. God Bless everyone affected by this event.
Alabama 31 Southern Miss 10
Alabama cannot afford to come out as sloppy and sluggish this week as they did last week and expect to win as easily. Southern Miss will come in high on emotion for a number of reasons. It's their first game, they've been displaced, and this is their last chance to beat Alabama. I wouldn't be surprised if the Golden Eagles score first or even have the lead at the end of the first quarter, but then Bama's superior talent on both sides of the ball will take over. Look for Broadie Croyle to pick apart the Southern Miss secondary, if the o-line gives him a chance. Bama's d will dominate.
Tom Canterbury, Producer
Sports Radio 1420 The Tusk