Alabama Vs. Clemson Is Risk-Reward Game

Surely by now, everyone who has any interest whatsoever in Alabama football is aware of the process. That is, the Crimson Tide is building by a process, and doing things the right way is the goal. With that accomplished, the by-product will be victory.

Even those who are process-oriented in their lives and in their work tend to be goal-oriented when it comes to favorite sports teams. And so, following Saturday night's Alabama season opening football game against Clemson, Crimson Tide fans won't be thinking in terms of being improved.

Grantland Rice's "not that you won or lost -- but how you played the game" admonition notwithstanding, all with any stake in the gamed are interested in the result.

Legendary Kentucky Basketball Coach Adolph Rupp once spoke at the Alabama basketball awards banquet. He said, "If it doesn't matter who wins, why do they put those scoreboards up?"

The scoreboard in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta will be lit for the kickoff of the Alabama-Clemson game at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. central time) Saturday. ABC will televise the game nationally.

Most national and regional pundits expect Clemson, which is ranked ninth in the nation going into the opening games, to defeat Alabama, which is ranked 24th.

This is a risk-reward game, and most of the risk is for the favorite, the greatest opportunity reward for the underdog.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has been working to have an improved football team. And the amount of progress shown notwithstanding, Saban doesn't get any pay bonus for "moral victory." Every ounce of energy he and his staff and players have will be expended in pursuit of victory.

At the least, Alabama expects to come out of the game with a gauge of the Crimson Tide rebuilding effort. Last year Bama opened with a 52-6 win over Western Carolina. That didn't tell anyone much about the level of the Tide (which would finish with a 7-6 record).

The reward for an Alabama win will be great, beyond a rare (in recent years) win over a ranked team and a solidification of Bama in the national rankings. It will be far more than 1-0 as opposed to 0-1.

An Alabama win over Clemson would give the Tide a boost in confidence. Not just the confidence to win, but confidence in the process, a concept that likely has been difficult for some to grasp. It is the nature of athletics at most levels to be quite concerned with the game result.

A specific beneficiary of this boost in confidence would likely be quarterback John Parker Wilson, who is working with his third position coach and third offensive coordinator in three years. It would be unfair to place blame for offensive shortcomings in 2007 on Major Applewhite, the former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. But Applewhite is far less experienced than the man filling those roles this year. Jim McElwain has a fine track record and the pairing of fifth year quarterback Wilson with him looks like a good one.

There is a distinct lack of tunnel vision among foes of the Crimson Tide. An Alabama win over Clemson would not go unnoticed by future opponents. The worst nightmare for coaches, players and fans of opposing schools is the return of the bully, and an Alabama victory over Clemson would add to the mound of evidence that Bama Is Back...or at least on a fast track.

Also witnessing Saturday night's game will be many of the nation's best high school football players, and these prospects will be given a large helping of Alabama football. That contributes to future success in recruiting.

Clemson is in a different situation. The Tigers have been very good for several years, but have fallen short of expectations season after season. This year Clemson is expected to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. A loss to Alabama won't affect ACC results (just as the game has no direct bearing for Alabama in Southeastern Conference standings). But as the favorite, as a top ten team, the pressure will be greatest on Clemson's coaching staff and players.

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