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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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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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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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Kentucky wrap-up: Dominant Tide begins to put the pieces together

The middle of the season seems to mark a tipping point for Nick Saban-coached Alabama football teams.

If one doesn’t count the initial 2007 season, the following key games occurred at or near the midpoint of Saban’s other seasons: In 2008, Alabama’s fifth game of the year was the now-infamous “Blackout” game in Athens, Ga., where the Tide won 41-30 in a game that was made respectable only by a couple of late Georgia touchdowns well after the results had been decided. In 2009, Saban’s first championship season with the Crimson Tide, the seventh game of the year came against South Carolina in Tuscaloosa, otherwise known as the game that won Mark Ingram a Heisman Trophy.

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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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