Alabama Prepared For Season-Opener

In Alabama, not many things are more exciting than football season. Although most of the excitement comes later in the season, building in relation to the importance of games, there is a special excitement about the start of the season.

Alabama opens its 116th football season at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts the San Jose State Spartans in Bryant-Denny Stadium. A new state record for football attendance will be set in the first game in the stadium since the completion of the latest expansion, bringing capacity to 101,821.

There is no network television of the game. It is available on a pay-per-view basis.

The past two years, Alabama has opened the season against top ten opponents, defeating Clemson in 2008 and Virginia Tech last year. Both those games were played in the Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Wins in those games the past two seasons were credited in part for spring-boarding the Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban to back-to-back undefeated regular season records. Last year the Tide followed the 12-0 season with wins in the Southeastern Conference and BCS National Championship games.

After winning the 13th national championship in school history last year, Alabama is the near-unanimous pre-season selection to be number one in 2010.

San Jose State is not the formidable opposition of the past two season-openers. The Spartans are coming off a 2-10 season, have been predicted to finish last in the WAC this year, and have a new head coach in Mike McIntyre, his first head coaching job.

Alabama will be without pre-season All-America defensive end Marcell Dareus, who was given a two-game suspension by the NCAA for his improper trips to Miami in agent-related violations.

Alabama was not caught off guard with this week's determination that Dareus, ranked by Mel Kiper as the nation's top defensive end eligible for the 2011 NFL draft, would be suspended, although statements from Tide officials expressed disappointment in the penalty.

Saban announced Bama will appeal the suspension of the second game, the Sept. 11 contest against Penn State. Unofficial word was that Saban was going to suspend Dareus for Bama's season-opener against San Jose State on Saturday regardless of the NCAA decision.

(An appeal cannot result in increased penalties.)

Meanwhile, Alabama has prepared for either contingency. Dareus has been practicing, but plenty of work has also gone to his back-ups. Alabama's depth chart lists Undra Billingsley and Darrington Sentimore as co-number two behind Dareus.

The suspension of Dareus has temporarily over-shadowed another very significant loss for Alabama in the opening game. Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, is out for at least this week after having a slight knee injury on Monday, followed by arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday.

Alabama has spent the past two days in its indoor facility in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) and will have a Fiday walk-through. Saban said, "Hopefully our guys are preparing and doing the right things that they need to do to play their best football in this particular game. I think the things that are important to that right now is mental practice, going over the things that you are going to do, because the physical practice is going to be limited.

"You can accomplish a significant amount if you do a good job of mental practice."

Alabama has compiled a 91-21-3 all=time record in season-opening games, including eight straight victories in such contests.

Alabama is opening the season in Tuscaloosa for the first time since Saban's first season in 2007 when Bama took a 52-6 win over Western Carolina.

In his previous 14 years as a college head coach, Saban has an 11-3 record in first games.

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