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MSU preview: For perhaps the first time ever, Bama is the hunter, not the hunted

MSU preview: For perhaps the first time ever, Bama is the hunter, not the hunted

Alabama is coming off its annual exposure to trench warfare, otherwise known as the LSU game, and the results were almost too terrible to imagine. Alabama needed a last-minute, game-tying drive and an overtime period to defeat the Bayou Bengals, and the Tide’s reward is a date with a Bulldog team that is more dynamic offensively, has better speed at the quarterback position and who spent last week toying with UT-Martin.

If this game was being played in Starkville, it would be even more of a circus than it figures to be in Tuscaloosa. But with Alabama’s home-field performances being so strong in 2014, the top concern might not be Mississippi State, but the annual post-LSU hangover from which the Crimson Tide always seems to suffer.

Tennessee wrap-up: Sims’ statement drive ices game for Crimson Tide

While Ole Miss was blinking in the spotlight – a function of not having been in the spotlight in 40-plus years – Alabama proved against Tennessee that the bigger the moment gets, the bigger the Crimson Tide usually plays.

It won’t go down as the signature win of the season – Alabama will have to work hard to top the 59-0 pasting of Texas A&M last week, although LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn remain on the schedule – but Blake Sims probably had the signature drive. Up 27-17 in the third quarter and badly needing a score to put Alabama three scores ahead again, Sims led Alabama to four third-down conversions before Derrick Henry polished off the Volunteers with a long touchdown run.

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Tennessee preview: Vols still struggling, but look to give Alabama a fight

During Alabama’s 2009 title run, the Crimson Tide hosted an outmanned, outgunned and thoroughly mediocre Tennessee Volunteer team for what most people expected to be a blowout win.

Four quarters later, Alabama had to rely on two blocked field goals from Terrence Cody in order to advance past Tennessee – a Tennessee team coached by current Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

In the years since, Alabama has usually defeated Tennessee by a wide margin in the end. In very few of those cases, however, did Alabama dominate from start to finish. Establishing large, early leads and putting the game to bed early is a concept not often found in this series.

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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.

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Florida preview: Struggles with Kentucky belie Gators’ true talents

As the final few plays in Florida’s overtime win over Kentucky went by the boards, there were two schools of thought concerning the Gators. The first was that Will Muschamp needed to visit the nearest Laser Copy and start getting resumes ready; the second was that this Gators team, despite its struggles against Kentucky, still has enough talent to win any game on its schedule.

And, now that Florida refused to fold against Kentucky, you can add the adjective “resilient” to the mix.

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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.

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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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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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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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