Making season projections months before the season actually starts is typically a useless exercise. One can reasonably make predictions for the first 2-3 games, but once teams get a few games under their belts, the preseason predictions often crash and burn (who really thought Tennesse would be 5-6 last year?) With that fact firmly in mind, I present to you the first of twelve conjectures on the 2006 Alabama season.
September 2, 2006
This year's home opener will be the third meeting between the Crimson Tide and the Warriors and the first to take place in Alabama. The teams' earlier meetings both took place in Hawaii as "bowl games" for the Tide during recent years of probation. Alabama won the first meeting in 2002 by a score of 21-16. The Warriors ruined the Tide's holiday in 2003 by a score of 29-37. The 2006 match up in Tuscaloosa will see one team take the lead in the young series.
Even though Timmy Chang, the NCAA's all-time leading passer, is the most recognizable name from the '02 & '03 Hawaii squads, he was largely ineffective against the Tide in their two meetings. In the '02 game, he threw for 372 yards, but was intercepted four times in their loss to Alabama.
In '03, Alabama looked to be in the driver's seat after one quarter's worth of action when Chang completed only 7 of 23 for 38 yards. His own fans were booing him. Chang was pulled and backup QB Jason Whieldon came into the game in the second quarter and lit a spark for the Warriors. He finished the game 15 of 25 for 237 yards throwing four TD passes and rushing for another to lead them to a come from behind victory in the fourth quarter.
Hawaii QB Colt Brennan
Hawaii's 2006 offense features a QB that can put up some serious numbers. Junior quarterback Colt Brennan led the nation last year in several categories: passing yards (4,301), passing yards per game (358.4), touchdown passes (35). Despite those massive stats, Hawaii only managed a 5-7 record.
Besides shutting out Idaho, the least amount of points given up by the Warrior defense in 2005 was 23 to Utah State (Alabama only gave up three points to Utah State last year.) USC hung 63 on the Warrior defense and seven other teams scored 30 or more. This is good news for Alabama's anemic offense, which only scored over 20 points in six of thirteen games last year. To make matters worse, Alabama's low power offense is also much more questionable this year under the leadership of sophomore QB John Parker Wilson.
In addition to Brennan, other standout players for the Warriors include Davone Bess (WR), Tala Esera (OT), and Ikaika Alama-Francis (DE). All four players were named to the preseason All-WAC First Team.
Last year's home opener against Middle Tennessee State was sluggish and ugly and somewhat of a struggle despite the 26-7 scoreline. I imagine we'll see the same lumbering style of play to start the '06 season. Hawaii should provide a greater challenge than MTSU though, so the inexperienced Tide should beware of counting this one as a sure win.
This will be Hawaii's first-ever trip to an SEC stadium and I'd like to think that the southern-fried lunacy of 92,000 screaming fans will take them by surprise and put them off of their game. Alabama will win, but they won't put their stamp on the game until the third quarter when they finally start to pull away.
Predicted record after this game: (1-0)
Hopefully some Hawaii fans will travel to the Druid City so we can show them some Southern hospitality.