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USM preview: Woeful Golden Eagles can’t recapture past magic

USM preview: Woeful Golden Eagles can’t recapture past magic

There was a time when Southern Miss was a better yearly opponent for Alabama than some SEC teams.

A couple of Alabama-Southern Miss games are noteworthy, for all the wrong reasons. There was the Reggie Collier-led upset of one of Paul “Bear” Bryant’s last Alabama teams. And then there was the 21-0 loss to USM in 2000 that should have been the impetus for firing Mike DuBose.

This Southern Miss team, though, is nothing like those teams.

WVU preview: Mountaineer team was in a valley in 2013

Just about the time West Virginia head coach Dana Holgersen was being anointed as the next big thing in college coaches, the 2013 season happened.
West Virginia went 4-8 in 2013, and the problems were evident right off the bat, as West Virginia struggled to beat William & Mary in the opener, 24-17, then had losses to Oklahoma and Maryland by a combined score of 53-7, sandwiching a win over FBS pretender Georgia State. The offense than Holgorsen took such great pride in having developed suddenly didn’t work.

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FAU preview: Bama has the tools to easily ground the Owls

Prior to meeting West Virginia in the opener, Alabama didn’t know what it had at the quarterback position.

Now, Florida Atlantic doesn’t know what it has, either.

An injury has likely claimed starter Jaquez Johnson, but if Johnson doesn’t play Saturday, Florida Atlantic’s already-slim chances of winning this game go out the window. Johnson’s dual-threat makeup and leadership skills make him the only real threat the Owls have on offense. Without him, FAU is toast – and the Owls seem to realize this, as despite the fact Johnson has a shoulder injury and Florida Atlantic needs him healthy for its Conference USA schedule, he has been upgraded to “probable” for the Alabama game.

But even with Johnson available for much of the opener against Nebraska, Florida Atlantic was routed, 55-7, and showed a complete lack of competitiveness. Alabama, meanwhile, is coming off a solid win over West Virginia that was far from perfect, but held promise for the future provided Alabama makes improvements on defense.

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WVU preview: Mountaineer team was in a valley in 2013

Just about the time West Virginia head coach Dana Holgersen was being anointed as the next big thing in college coaches, the 2013 season happened.

West Virginia went 4-8 in 2013, and the problems were evident right off the bat, as West Virginia struggled to beat William & Mary in the opener, 24-17, then had losses to Oklahoma and Maryland by a combined score of 53-7, sandwiching a win over FBS pretender Georgia State. The offense than Holgorsen took such great pride in having developed suddenly didn’t work.

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Previews 2014: Alabama Crimson Tide

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Previews 2014: Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama is one of the most interesting teams in college football in 2014, if for no other reason that a team one play away from a possible shot at a national championship, returning a nucleus of top talent and poised for yet another title run, is actually a team in transition. A new offensive coordinator is in town, the quarterback position is completely up in the air and changes are expected on the defensive side of the ball to correct a downward trend, particularly in front seven performance.

OFFENSE

Alabama is now the employer of one Lane Kiffin, former Tennessee head coach, NCAA scofflaw and general spoiled brat. At least that’s what he’s been in the eyes of Alabama fans until now. These days, he’s the hopeful savior of Alabama’s balanced, but ground-oriented offensive attack built around the idea that beating an opponent into a bloody coma is the pinnacle of college football strategy. But the ultimate determiner of style may be decided by which quarterback wins the starting job.

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Sugar Bowl wrap-up: What will this game mean for Alabama’s future?

By the time Oklahoma recovered the final kickoff – a so-bad-it-was-funny moment that served as the perfect capper to the 2014 Sugar Bowl – the time for mulling over what might have been was long gone.

For the second time in six years, Alabama laid an egg in the Sugar Bowl to an inferior team. But in that regard, the 2014 game was at least an improvement over the 2009 Sugar Bowl, since Oklahoma, unlike Utah, was a worthy opponent.

Twice now under Nick Saban, Alabama has lost a title shot after Thanksgiving and ended up in New Orleans playing for pride. Both times, the results left Alabama fans wondering whether anyone on the team seemed to care.

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Sugar Bowl preview: Tide must ignore waves of disappointment to beat Sooners

The 2008 Crimson Tide team opened the season with 12 straight victories, only to lose a potential national title shot at the hands of Florida and quarterback Tim Tebow in the SEC Championship Game. While Alabama was admittedly ahead of schedule in even getting to the game in the first place, the loss was still a bitter pill and served as motivation for the entire 2009 year. Highlights of the 2009 SEC Championship Game, for instance, make their appearance in Alabama’s pregame video under the headline “Redemption.”

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Auburn preview: Alabama finds unexpected roadblock on way to another title

There’s really no other way to say it – Alabama didn’t see this coming.

Few people thought Auburn would be as bad as it was in 2012, but the number of people who expected the Tigers to be 10-1 and just on the outside of a BCS Championship Game matchup probably wouldn’t be enough to fill a taxicab. And that’s including Lee County residents.

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LSU preview: Tigers looking to play the spoiler role in T-Town

For the entirety of Nick Saban’s tenure as Alabama head coach, the Alabama-LSU game has held special meaning, and not just because Saban used to coach in Baton Rouge.

Almost every year the two teams have met, something important has been on the line for both teams, usually involving the SEC West lead or even a top-5 ranking. But this year is a bit different. While Alabama comes into the game ranked No. 1 in the country and with much still to play for, LSU is all but out of both the national title race and the race for an SEC championship.

And it wasn’t completely unexpected. LSU suffered substantial losses on the defensive side of the ball after the 2012 season concluded, and this is not the throat-choking juggernaut of a team that is has been in previous seasons. LSU is a rather average 50th in rushing defense, and the secondary, while still very good, isn’t filled with the same lockdown-style athletes as opponents are accustomed to facing. But offensively, this team has gone from being strong to very dangerous, thanks to an upgrade at the offensive coordinator position.

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Arkansas preview: Razorbacks in transition, Alabama looking for domination

For Alabama fans who appreciate nostalgia, they’ll get plenty of it when Arkansas comes to town this week.

Why? Because they’ll swear Danny Ford was back in Fayetteville.

Bret Bielema took over the Arkansas program this spring after John L. Smith was mercifully let go after a season that could justifiably be called the most disappointing – relative to expectations – in the history of Arkansas football. The Razorbacks were coming off a string of high-scoring seasons under Bob Petrino, and the program was threatening to punch into the elite of the SEC West.

And then Bob Petrino got in a motorcycle accident, got caught lying about an affair and was relieved of his duties as the Razorback head coach. The coach of the Hogs had been thrown off his Hog and was found to have been acting like a pig.

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