Day To Think About Upsets

If The University of Alabama was paying the chairman of the School of Communications $4 million a year and the professors were all making princely sums in excess of a quarter of a million a year, how long would we be patient in waiting for the Crimson White to read like the New York Times?

Would we be willing to wait for the School of Journalism to recruit Rick Bragg-types before turning out the product?

Alabama Coach Nick Saban doesn't come across as a patient type person, but he has insisted that Crimson Tide fans must be patient while he and his staff institute the process that will lead to unarticulated results. The process includes recruiting and conditioning and coaching.

Saban may not want to hear it, but Alabama fans know the goal. It has been a decade and a half since it has been reached, and patience is thin. That is not to blame the Crimson Tide staff. This group is just getting started, and any reasonable observer recognizes there are obstacles to a national championship.

The Fourth of July seems an appropriate time to think about upsets. After all, what were the chances of General George Washington's rag-tag army defeating the most powerful military machine on the face of the planet? (Today we might think what the chances would be of getting military help from the French, but that's a subject for another venue.)

Did Bama's Fourth Quarter off-season program harden the Crimson Tide like Valley Forge did the revolutionary army?

Does Saban face stiffer competition than Washington did against Cornwallis at Yorktown?

What would become the United States of America defeating Great Britain is one of the great upsets in history. No college football game can approach it. Still, Alabama could use an upset. And soon.

In order to effect an upset, Bama must first be the underdog. That won't come in the first two games of 2007. Against Western Carolina on September 1, the only Alabama concern will be that quarterback John Parker Wilson not suffer an inexcusable season-ending injury the way Brodie Croyle did in 2005. Vanderbilt in Nashville the next week will be something of a test. The Commodores, historically depth-poor, are usually tougher early in the season, but still aren't likely to be able to match Alabama firepower.

What about Arkansas? The Razorbacks have had a lot of success against Alabama, particularly as the underdog. Bama is likely to be the favorite in this game on September 8 in Tuscaloosa. It will make you dizzy trying to decide if since the Tide will be favored that it would be an upset if Alabama won against the Hogs on September 15.

How about Georgia in Tuscaloosa on September 22? The Bulldogs are picked in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division about like Alabama is picked in the Western Division, which is to say middle of the pack. So it's hard to say that a win over Georgia would be much of an upset.

FSU and Alabama in Jacksonville on September 29 is one of the better non-conference games in recent Alabama history. There have been seasons when Bama vs. Florida State would be big bowl talk. But the Tide is coming off the Independence Bowl and the Seminoles took their 6-6 record to the Emerald Bowl last year. This looks like a toss-up, not the stuff of upsets.

Houston in Tuscaloosa on October 6 is likely to be a better game than was expected when the Cougars were scheduled. Still, the Conference USA team will be an underdog against Bama.

Game seven of 2007 is at Ole Miss. Even though it took overtime for Alabama to win last year's game in Tuscaloosa, there is a good reason the Tide has an all-time record of 43-9-2 against the Rebels. There is no Manning in Oxford, and a Bama win on October 13 will not be an upset.

Several teams have had excellent success against Alabama thanks to a big assist from the NCAA, which crippled the Crimson Tide with unprecedented penalties. Bama has made progress in recovering from that handicap. One of the programs most responsible for Alabama problems and which most benefited from them is Tennessee. Cloach Phil Fulmer's team is considered an under-achiever by many. The Vols come to Tuscaloosa on October 20 in the unusual position of having played a game the previous week (against Mississippi State). An Alabama win over the Vols would be most welcome, but hardly an epic upset this year.

Alabama and LSU will have two weeks to get ready for the November 3 game in Tuscaloosa. The Bengal Tigers do not have Bama on their Best Friends List since the Crimson Tide brought in Saban. Odd, since he stockpiled LSU with national championship type players. It is primarily because of what Saban did at LSU that the Tigers have more firepower than the Tide. There is no doubt Saban will have his team prepared for LSU, but the Bengal Tigers will have been building for this game like no other on the schedule. If somehow Alabama could win this game, it would be a true upset.

One reason Saban is at Alabama is because of a 2006 upset. Alabama lost to Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa last year, a sure sign that the Mike Shula era was near its conclusion. This year the Tide has to travel to Starkville for the November 10 game, but Alabama will be expected to win.

Only the most hardcore fan knows that on November 17 Alabama will be hosting Louisiana-Monroe. This is the kind of game Bama needs fewer of.

Alabama closes out the inaugural Nick Saban regular season with a chance at a real upset. Auburn partisans are thinking the Tigers can compete for the national championship this year, and the game is in Auburn on November 24. Particularly since Tommy Tuberville became Auburn's coach, the Tigers have seemed to play with great hate for Alabama. That ferocity has not been matched by Alabama teams. Bama should be tougher under Saban, but judging by conversation among Auburn partisans the infusion of Saban into the rivalry has increased Auburn hate. Expect Alabama to return to dominant football force in the state under Saban, but it would be a real upset for Bama to end the Tigers' winning streak this year.

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