Do You Buy Tide As Contender?

After finishing 2008 with an undefeated regular season Nick Saban's Alabama football team began his third-year at the helm in Tuscaloosa with expectations sky high. The AP's Top 25 Poll had the Tide in at No. 5 with only Florida at No. 1 ahead of them in the SEC. Many expect a rematch of last year's SEC championship versus Florida with Bama having a chance to play for a national championship.

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With the majority of one the nation's top defenses returning along with a boat load of talent on both sides of the ball, the only questions about Alabama going into the opener against Virginia Tech were could first year starter Greg McElroy at quarterback and a revamped offensive line effectively move the ball and put points on the board.

What we learned from Game One versus Virginia Tech:

Alabama's defense is as good as, maybe better, than advertised. The defensive line made life miserable for speedy senior Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor early in the game.

Alabama's aggressive defense did not allow the Hokies to get on track offensively until late in the first half when Ryan Williams bulled his way into the end zone for a one yard touchdown with 1:02 left in the half.

To that point, Tech kept the score close with a little classic "Beamer Ball" scoring off of a turnover and on a 98-yard kick-off return for a touchdown by Dyrell Roberts.

In the second half and down the stretch Alabama became more dominant as the Crimson Tide took control of the game with a very balanced offensive attack led by McElroy, who connected on 15 of 30 pass attempts for 230 yards and a touchdown.

The ground game was also effective rushing for 268 yards led by sophomore running back Mark Ingram who had an outstanding night with 26 carries for 150 yards and one touchdown.

Several wide receivers were terrific in the game. Sophomore Marquis Maze only had two catches for 57 yards but they were spectacular and one-a 48 yard bomb from McElroy set up a six yard touchdown run by Ingram.

Julio Jones, who drew a lot of double coverage, and fellow sophomore Darius Hanks played very well and showed that the offense, while perhaps youthful and to this point relatively inexperienced, is indeed dangerous and capable of putting a lot of points on the board.

Overall, Alabama may have made a statement on Saturday night with a convincing win over a Virginia Tech team that may very well prove to be the class of the ACC.

After the Game Nick Saban said "I am happy with this team—we've got a look of work to do but I'm happy with the way we played."

Indeed, there is a long way to go with a lot of football to be played but now that we've seen the product on the field, I'm buying Alabama as a front runner in the SEC West, a contender for the SEC crown, and in the conversation for the National Title.

Of course there are a few other SEC teams that still may have something to say about all that and I'm sticking with my ‘fearless prediction' but Nick Saban's third year should be a good one.

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