Can 2008 Tide Win 10 Games?

Picking a team's won-lost record two and a half months before kick-off is as tricky as it is fun. I work out the upcoming Alabama season in my head every year. This year I'm putting it in writing. If it's wrong, as coach Nick Saban says, "It is what it is."

Those who attend press conferences of Alabama Coach Nick Saban and/or his booster talks have heard that. They've also heard the Bama coach's other favorite catch phrases, "The Process" and "Finish." How the the 2008 Crimson Tide finishes its season (as it failed to do last year) will go a long way towards determining just how far along "The Process" truly is.

Some would say that will also be the case August 30 when Bama opens in the Georgia Dome against Clemson. Well, not really. Clemson is a veteran team that is the pre-season favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Like Alabama, the Tigers have a senior quarterback. Cullen Harper is back as Clemson quarterback and in front of him he is just his center off a good offensive line.

Harper can hand off to guys like C.J. Spiller and James Davis (who Bama could have signed if it tried harder),and those guys will find holes even if the inexperienced o-line doesn't create them. I look for Clemson to win.

On September 6,Tulane's Green Wave washes in to Crimson Tide territory and the thinking here is that, despite Bob Toledo's team returning 15 starters, that Bama will prevail. Not a tough call, really. There's a poster on the locker of every Bama Player reminding him of last year's Louisiana-Monroe debacle. "Finish," remember?

Much the same should be true when Western Kentucky comes calling September 13. Coaches hate it when we write this, but this one should be more like a scrimmage, with many moms and dads happy their sons got to play.

A cold snap back to reality occurs September 20 when the Tide heads to what its fans affectionately call "Fayette-Nam." That would be Fayetteville, home of the Arkansas Razorbacks and first-year man Bob Petrino. This game will go a LONG way in determining The bowl status of the 2008 Tide, and I'm thinking they can steal one since Petrino's "Process" is a year behind Saban's.

The losses of a couple of guys named McFadden and Jones is a big part of this decision process. The return of quarterback Casey Dick just doesn't strike a lot of fear, here. Bama wins.

The next week, a trip to Athens (not the one in Greece) awaits, and it's not likely to be much fun for those in crimson. Georgia is prominent among that small group of teams being mentioned for the 2008 national title. As the late Lewis Grizzard said, "That dog'll BITE YOU." Call the vet, Bulldogs win.

Kentucky visits Bryant-Denny October 4, and it will be a Wildcats squad without NFL rookie Andre Woodson. That's good news for Bama, and should result in a Tide home win.

After a welcome bye week to heal injuries and refine personnel, the Tide returns to action October 18 for its third Saturday match up with Ole Miss. Transfer Jevan Snead had a stellar spring for Houston Nutt in Oxford, and may keep this one close, but Bama should be able to pull it out in front of its home crowd.

Tradition-wise the Tennessee rivalry is a week late this year, and it's in Knoxville, where rear ends must be quite skinny to fit the seats of Neyland Stadium.

Alabama blew the Vols out last year behind a great performance by John Parker Wilson, and the senior should have another of those in him under the tutelage of Jim McElwain.

UT's Jonathan Crompton looked better than Vols' opponents would have hoped in his final two spring scrimmages, but Bama should best the "Great Pumpkin" in this pre-Halloween get-together.

On November 1, Arkansas State visits. See the Tulane and Western Kentucky paragraphs above. If it's possible to rest starters (another no-no to ask in a coach Saban press conference), the Tide staff probably should do so, because of what lies ahead.

Ah, a trip to Red Stick, Baton Rouge, where a Bama win was just assumed for so many years. We all know what happens when you assume. Perhaps Les Miles will dine on his pre-game "Convenience Store Surf n' Turf" of mustard sardines and potted meat, but it won't matter. The Bengals will pounce. Yes, I recall how close it was last year. Yes, there will be distractions with coach Saban's return to his former school. Yes, LSU will win.

On November 15, Sly Croom and his Mississippi State Bulldogs will attempt to hold up a third finger against Bama. It won't necessarily be the middle digit, but rest assured many in Starkville were less than happy to see MSU grouped with La-Monroe on the Alabama locker poster. It won't matter. Reality will set back in with a Bama win. It is good for the Tide faithful to know that Titus Brown now will play on Sundays, though.

Speaking of holding up fingers, the Auburn Tigers and Tommy Tuberville come in trying to make it seven straight on November 29. Bama will have had another bye week to heal and game-plan, and so will Auburn. Bama will be coming off a home game with MSU, while AU will be coming off a Jordan-Hare contest vs. Georgia.

All that said; look for John Parker Wilson to etch his name in crimson flame by becoming the first UA signal-caller to beat Auburn in Bryant-Denny Stadium. It's a tall order, to be sure, but by the time this game takes place, the highly touted freshman class at Alabama will be sophomores from a playing-time perspective. That, along with Auburn's dual quarterback system and a true homefield advantage should make the difference.

That all adds upto a 9-3, 6-2 SEC regular season record, which should be good enough for second place in the West. A much nicer than Shreveport bowl game should await, even if it's only Memphis a year later than it could have been had the Tide "finished" against either La-Monroe or State. But it could be better than Memphis, depending on how the rest of the league shakes out.

If there is to be an addition to Bama's 28 10-win seasons (now behind Oklahoma for the NCAA leadership in that category), that mark will need to be reached in the bowl game. And, should the team gel and "finish" the way coach Saban and staff hope, that could very well happen.

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