MURPHY: Looking at 2007

Wow, that was an abrupt ending for Alabama last weekend, eh?

Two runs in two games, including a solo homer by Alex Avila, for the punchless Crimson Tide baseball team at the SEC tournament in Hoover added up to a whiff on Selection Monday.

Then the Alabama softball team put forth an uneven effort that led to a two-and-out sweep at Washington. Now, I still believe that the Crimson Tide would be playing today in Oklahoma City had this super regional been in Tuscaloosa -- if not for unconscionably bad seeding by the committee. But that's a topic for another day. And, it cannot be overlooked, Alabama was not playing its best ball at season's end and it was clearly affected by the injury to Lauren Parker.

These postseason busts capped a difficult athletic season at the Capstone, which has been chronicled in this space. Yes, it's hard for some readers to deal with, including one very closely linked to this Website -- whom I won't call out, but his name rhymes with Pitch Lobs, or Rich Snobs -- so we'll just let that topic rest for now.

Anywho, on to other topics. How about the 2007 football season for the Crimson Tide?

Let's dissect it a bit.

Sept. 1 vs. Western Carolina. This likely pay-per-view debut for Nick Saban can't be anything but a walkover. Advice to John Parker Wilson: If you're up four-plus touchdowns early in the second half and are thinking about scrambling, just chunk the ball away. Alabama 45, Western Carolina 3.

Sept. 8 at Vanderbilt. Bobby Johnson has no doubt built a deeper roster in his run with the Commodores. Jonathan Goff might have been the best playmaking linebacker this reporter laid eyes on last year. Chris Nickson will surely be less erratic and the Vandy running game should be slightly better this season. Still, the Tide should have better athletes in most positions, and let's not forget that Bama gave away two likely touchdowns in this game last year. Alabama 27, Vandy 13.

Sept. 15 vs. Arkansas. If there is one team that has clutched more victories out of the jaws of defeat against Alabama the last 15 years than the Hogs, I'd like somebody to point it out.

Arkansas 24, Alabama 23 last September might have been more painful to watch than the Razorbacks double-overtime win in 2003. Remember the comeback from three touchdowns behind, the celebration penalty in overtime, the Tony Bua no-call after contact with an official and the missed field goal? Yeah, that one was painful too.

I think the Alabama defense will expose the Arkansas quarterback position in this game and contain Darren McFadden and Felix Jones enough to win. Alabama 24, Arkansas 20.

Sept. 22 vs. Georgia. The Bulldogs have been very solid under Mark Richt, but they're undergoing a significant transition, especially on defense, this year. However, Georgia has consistently reloaded with young talent at need positions the last few years. Matthew Stafford, an eight-game starter last year, takes the reins at quarterback for a team that won its last three vs. No. 5 Auburn, No. 16 Georgia Tech and No. 14 Virginia Tech. Alabama's home record against the SEC elite is not good. Georgia 20, Alabama 17.

Sept. 29 vs. Florida State (Jacksonville) Traditional powers meet on neutral soil for what should be a rocking good time. This will not be Bobby Bowden at his peak, nor will it be Saban's best Bama team in his maiden voyage. Sounds like a toss-up. Alabama 25, Florida State 24.

Oct. 6 vs. Houston. Good thing Kevin Kolb is no longer slining it for the Cougars. Houston still presents a formidable offense. Alabama 31, Houston 21.

Oct. 13 at Ole Miss. The Ed Orgeron regime hasn't scored a signficant upset yet, though it nearly tripped unbeaten Alabama in Oxford in 2005. Though BenJarvus Green-Ellis should be one of the SEC's best backs in 2007, the Rebels still have quarterback issues. The defense might also slip a notch with Patrick Willis no longer on the prowl. This should not come down to a field goal or overtime. Alabama 27, Ole Miss 17.

Oct. 20 vs. Tennessee. Definitely a swing game for Saban's first club. No matter the circumstances or talent level, these two have played down to the wire in every game since the Tide's drought-breaking slaughter in Knoxville in 2002. This game should be no different. But considering last year's Tide team had the Vols on the ropes, I'll go with the home team here. Alabama 18, Tennessee 16.

Nov. 3 vs. LSU. Must-see TV as Saban faces his former team and LSU coach Les Miles takes on the man who handed him a loaded roster and the program he scorched with an ephithet on signing day. Surely the Tigers quarterback play won't reach JaMarcus Russell levels this season, but the rest of the team is bursting with talent. LSU 24, Alabama 21.

Nov. 10 at Mississippi State. Sylvester Croom had his injury riddled team better prepared last year, and the 'Dogs earned a win at Bryant-Denny against a lackluster Alabama team. Had Mike Shula been able to get his team up for this game, he'd still likely be doing his mediocre coaching for the Tide. Here's some payback for the Tide. Alabama 20, State 10.

Nov. 17 vs. Louisiana-Monroe. Much like last year's romp. Alabama 49, Monroe 0.

Nov. 24 at Auburn. Could Alabama fans stand to see Tommy Tuberville break out another hand for his counting? My football sense says take the Tigers, as they have a solid roster and should be better at quarterback this year. However, isn't Alabama due some kind of self-made break in this series. Let's say they get one. Alabama 25, Auburn 23.


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