I'm borrowing this idea from Kyle, who got it from The Power T, who encouraged others to borrow it. Not content to do a straight lift though, I'm going to do a bit of a switcheroo on the idea of ranking our toughest games. Instead of starting with number one and doing it all at once, I'm going to split it into the bottom half and the top half and do it in countdown fashion. Today I bring you 12-7 and I'll post 6-1 tomorrow.
---(As a quick aside, I like the fact that The Power T is fearing the Tide this year. I know we're a long way from being serious contenders, but it's good to be considered a threat again.)---
12. WESTERN CAROLINA on 1 September
Why oh why is this game even on the schedule? I hate these games. There's so little to be gained from them besides a ton of cash for the athletic department. If this weren't Saban's first game, I'd probably skip it and be content to listen to it on the radio and watch the rebroadcast a day or two later. Alabama beat them 52-0 in their one previous meeting and I expect this to be about the same. This game will only be considered a success by me though if we escape it without injury. Last time we met up with the Catamounts we lost our starting QB for the season.
11. LOUISIANA MONROE on 17 November
Another cash game. Hooray! I understand that there has to be some canon fodder on the schedule and some "sure wins," but can't we schedule some fodder that should at least put up a decent fight? Last year's contest against La-Monroe saw Alabama playing down to their competition (no offense to the Warhawks.) Despite the 41-7 scoreline, Alabama only had a 17-7 advantage at the break, which left many Bama fans scratching their heads. Unfortunately, the first half of this game foreshadowed the offensive sluggishness that would plague the team all year. La-Monroe was the third game of the 2006 campaign and hopefully they'll just serve as a sharpening stone this year as game number 11 before we take our swords down the The Plains for some sweet sweet revenge.
10. HOUSTON on 6 October
If Kevin Kolb were still under center, Houston would be several notches higher up this list. His departure though has made me more at ease in assessing Houston at such a low position on the difficulty depth chart since the loss of a QB with that much experience will make last year's 10-4 record nigh impossible to replicate. Not only that but SMQ predicts a Cougar loss as a more or less foregone conclusion...and who really argues with SMQ? This isn't likely to a homecoming blowout, but I don't imagine the Cougars will rain on our homecoming either. Assuming we beat Houston, they'll become the twentieth team that has suffered 10 or more losses at the hands of the Crimson Tide (possibly the 21st as Arkansas could suffer their tenth loss to Alabama this year as well.)
---Interesting stat I just discovered: No team has registered more than a field goal in the last four seasons against Bama at homecoming, so maybe we will blow them out after all.---
9. at MISSISSIPPI STATE on 10 November
We don't really need to be reminded about last year`s game (the game that was ultimately Mike Shula's undoing.) It sucked. I know, I was there. It was the first time I ever saw Alabama lose a game in person. The good news though is that Alabama hasn't lost to Mississippi State two years in a row since a three year skid lasting from 1996 to 1998. Before that, back to back losses to the Bulldogs hadn't occurred since 1954-1955. History is clearly on our side when it comes to the Starkdogs. I also vehemently disagree with Todd's bright forecast for them this year. I mean, c'mon, it's Mississippi State. By week 10 of the season we should be dismantling teams like State...even on the road.
8. at OLE MISS on 13 October
The Rebs took us to overtime at BDS last year in a game that was won on a 2-yard pass to Le'Ron McClain. Overtime = losses to Alabama usually so it was a relief to escape with a "W" in that one. The temptation is there to be completely dismissive of Ole Miss, but we've dropped two of the last three contests in Oxford and the last five games over there have only seen the victor win by an average of 7 points (a number inflated by Ole Miss' 43-28 victory in 2003.) I expect a win here but I doubt it'll be one registered on cruise control.
7. at VANDERBILT on 8 September
A late field goal sealed last year's 13-10 victory over the Commies in a game that had BDS rather quiet on a broiling hot September Saturday morning. This game is also a Saturday morning affair, but in Nashville instead...not that Vanderbilt is a particularly hostile environment to play in or anything (we haven`t lost there since 1969.) Todd once again has a glowing projection for a perennial SEC doormat and I'm sure they'll give us a hell of a fight but I don't realistically see a loss here.
The bottom half of our schedule should be completed with six victories, a few of which better be blowouts. There will be a scare or two in there though. I know games will be managed infinitely better with Saban on the sideline but bad teams frequently provide scares to good teams and I'm sure we'll get our share of fright in 2007 from the bottom six.
Games 6 through 1 to follow tomorrow.