Teams I root for:
Last year was a dream season for us Bama fans, as the Tide scaled the mountain of college football supremacy sooner than we really expected. As we enter a new season, Bama has been ranked #1 by every poll and most preseason magazines. This has created alot of excitement, and they do have a very talented team coming back. What are the prospects for repeating? How about for repeating as SEC champions? Well, to do so I think they have to overcome the following:
- No team has repeated as national champions in the BCS era.
- Almost the entire starting defense has to be replaced, and experience will be lacking in the secondary, where single mistakes can cost six points.
- They're starting the season without the Heisman Trophy winner (injury) and their best defensive lineman (suspension).
- There are probably a dozen teams talented enough to win it all. Doing so requires being good enough, sure...but also having some breaks go your way. Just ask Tennessee.
- Six opponents have a bye week before playing Bama.
- Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina are awfully good! They play these three teams back-to-back-to-back, with two of them on the road. That will be a huge stretch.
Balancing these considerations is the fact that the Tide has a wealth of talent and a coach that is relentless about not losing your intensity. The (very biased) feeling here is that they will win the SEC and at least play for the title. If so, given the SEC's record in the title game, I have to like their chances.
I've been a fan ever since I followed the way Coach Bobby Bowden took his teams into the stadia of national powers, and built his program on killing the giants. But I really adopted them as my "#2" as the result of a very close friendship of 30 years. I go to FSU games with Steve most any time it doesn't conflict with a Bama game.
I am very excited about the Noles' prospects for this year, and especially beyond. Jimbo Fisher takes over as head coach, the first new head coach at Florida State since 1975. I'm very impressed with everything I've seen since he took over:
- A strong very recruiting class in February.
- A very strong emphasis on discipline.
- Meticulous attention to detail in preparation.
FSU returns Christian Ponder, maybe the best QB in the country, and an offensive line that has been improving ever since Rick Trickett began coaching them. With new schemes and alot of talent the defense should be much improved. I'm calling an ACC championship, with even bigger things to come in the future.
Teams I don't:
I can't bring myself to root for these guys, Alabama's longest and traditionally most competitive rival. They easily have the second most SEC championships.
But this year they have made that a little tough. First, they have actually hire a likable coach. Derek Dooley is the son of legend Vince Dooley, a coach for who I have tremendous respect. He seems to be a quality individual with alot of integrity...a nice change from Lane Kiffin. Unfortunately for him, the talent cupboard is relatively bare, thanks to poor recruiting the last few years. And I'm not sure that Coach Dooley has what it takes to be a big time college coach. Time will tell, but I could easily see Tennessee being 2-4 heading into the Bama game. If that's the case, we'd better not lose to them!
The Crocs...I mean, Gators...were the class of the SEC for most of the last five years. Was the Tide's dismantling of them last year a one-time occurrence or the beginning of a trend? In all likelihood, it was neither, but an indication of two programs that have reached a similar high level, and therefore any matchup will be awesome football. We'll get to find out soon enough, as they will play in the regular season for the first time in 4 years (October 2). This has become the SEC rivalry that has the eye of the nation.
Everyone is anxious to see how critical TimTebow's leadership has been. (The name running together is not a mistake, btw - it reflects the fact that almost every commentator says "TimTebow" like it was one word. I've always thought that was funny.) I think he will be missed more than most realize. Florida will still be extremely talented and a force nationally. However, my feeling is that without him they will not be able to pull off the road win at Bama. (I know - another "objective" opinion!) So if an improved Georgia team can beat them, they may not get their rematch in Atlanta. And it's about time for a much-improved Nole team to break through and get a big win in this rivalry. Yeah, I think maybe three losses for the Gators.
So there you have it...the ramblings of an unashamedly biased fan. The main thing is that it is going to be so much fun to find out what really happens. I plan to share some thoughts at least once a week this fall.