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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 wrap-up: Holes are easy to find in 2014 Tide

Nick Saban is known for making very salient, wise and perceptive statements, which is why many observers claim he would be just as at home running a multi-billion-dollar company as he would a football team.

Saban may have made his most apt comment yet in the postgame interview after the Crimson Tide defeated West Virginia 33-23: “It is what it is, and we are what we are.”

Perfectly stated.

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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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Tennessee wrap-up: Vols have found out how the other half lives

For a period of time about 15 years ago or so, the SEC football world revolved around Florida and Tennessee.

Phil Fulmer had built the Volunteers into a powerhouse, putting out NFL players left and right and – at least in years he could get by Steve Spurrier’s Florida team – annually threatening the top of the AP and Coaches’ polls. In addition, Tennessee enjoyed a cozy relationship with the SEC office, and there was little hiding the fact that Tennessee wanted to consign Alabama to the SEC’s second tier, or worse.

Funny what a difference a decade makes.

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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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Alabama mostly avoided the dreaded injury bug that seems to bite the Crimson Tide in one-sided affairs like this (see: Croyle, Brodie; ref. Western Carolina), although Denzel Devall appeared to tweak an ankle at one point. The starting offense could have scored with nine men on the field if it had wanted to, and the starting defense was never in danger of yielding a touchdown. Georgia State looked just like the transitional Division-IA program that was previewed here earlier in the week.

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Ole Miss preview: Rebels hoping to catch Alabama in a down cycle

Reports out of Oxford this week tell the tale of Ole Miss players taking to Twitter to brag about a coming upset, and being a bit loose-lipped in media interviews about their opinions of the 2013 Alabama team, particularly the Crimson Tide’s pass defense.

It doesn’t seem to matter than Alabama’s pass defense has given up natch to any quarterback not nicknamed Johnny Football, or that this is a team coming off consecutive national titles and neither one were by accident. Whatever Ole Miss saw in the Texas A&M tape has certainly gotten the Rebels into a lather, and it will be up to Alabama to do something about it Saturday night. Ole Miss is probably the second-toughest game left on the Tide schedule outside of LSU.

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Texas A&M wrap-up: Alabama’s win makes no sense, from any angle

Alabama brought the country’s best pass efficiency defense into College Station. Although Alabama’s ranking was based on just one game, Alabama has continuously put out top-10 efficiency defenses under Nick Saban. A strong Alabama pass defense is about as much of a surprise as is the revelation that the ocean is damp.

Manziel absolutely carved it up. Senior cornerback John Fulton, who almost singlehandedly shut down the Aggies’ outside passing game in the second half of the 2012 contest, was made to look like a freshman walk-on. Cyrus Jones gave it a valiant effort, but in the end found himself the victim of a 95-yard touchdown pass, among others. Manziel didn’t have quite the success he had in 2012 scrambling with the ball, but he had more than enough to break almost every meaningful defensive record contained in the Alabama media guide. Fortunately for Alabama, Texas A&M’s defense was as bad as its offense was good. Alabama gave up more yards than it ever had in the past, and still won. The Crimson Tide has never given up 42 points and won a game, ever. You have to go back to the Archie Manning days at Ole Miss to find numbers like these in a game Alabama still won. It makes no sense whatsoever that Alabama could hold on to win this game — much less be driving for a 21-point lead before T.J. Yeldon’s costly fumble — no matter how good Manziel is.

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2013 Fall Previews: Alabama Crimson Tide

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2013 Fall Previews: Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama finds itself in the unique and enviable position of two-time defending national champion as the 2013 season starts. While almost every team must replace departed players from one year to the next, the 2013 edition of the Alabama Crimson Tide retains a veteran presence throughout its roster, as well as returning its star quarterback and most of its playmakers on both sides of the ball.

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