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Ole Miss preview: Bama will find out whether Rebels are for real

Ole Miss preview: Bama will find out whether Rebels are for real

A quick glance at defensive statistics this season would seem to suggest that no, Ole Miss’ 2013 defensive improvement was not a mirage. The Rebels have put up impressive numbers through the first third of the 2014 season, and the confidence gained from their performance have given Ole Miss’ players a great deal of confidence heading into this game.

For Alabama, though, it’s just another verse to a familiar song, one sung by Ole Miss players and fans insistent that the current season will be different from those of the last 50 years. And while Ole Miss has a stout defense in 2014, to be sure, the Rebels’ offensive capabilities – particularly in the running game – simply haven’t been good enough to merit discussion of the Rebels-as-contenders subject.

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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A-Day 2014: Vanilla offense sputters, defense takes big step forward

For a fan base that was on the edge of its seats Saturday, watching with great interest the battle at quarterback, A-Day didn’t tell them much. Thanks to A-Day rules which completely remove QB scrambles from the list of possible outcomes – anything wearing a black jersey is considered “sacked” if they so happen to get breathed upon by a defensive lineman – Blake Sims might as well have been a boat anchor. A-Day ended up being a poor barometer of Sims’ skill set, and the quarterback competition is no clearer now than it was prior to the game.

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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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MSU preview: Tide’s biggest opponent this week? Emotional letdown

Mississippi State is a team in transition in 2013. And unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it’s a transition from contender to bottom-feeder.

The Bulldogs have become, overall, a respectable SEC team under head coach Dan Mullen, but have yet to take the next step up. Mullen has become somewhat notable, not necessarily for his successes, but rather for his struggles against other SEC West opponents. He also heads the program that lost Cam Newton to Auburn in 2010, and in seasons since, the program endured allegations of NCAA rules violations. No SEC program embodies the concept of “almost” quite like Mississippi State.

But the biggest problem Mississippi State faces in the here and now, is that this is a team that continues to lose ground to all six of its SEC West competitors in regards to talent. MSU’s recruiting has always been scattershot, no matter the name on the head coach’s door. And in 2013, the Bulldogs find themselves rebuilding a defense undercut by graduation, and a depth chart that has suffered several key losses due to injury. Questionable handling of the quarterback situation has done Mississippi State no favors, either.

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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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