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Tide will miss Croyle during 2006 season

With less than 60 days until SEC football kicks off, preseason magazines line the shelves in every bookstore or Wal-Mart in the state.

NCAA Football 2007 for Playstation is due out later this month, meaning it is time to start talking football.

In this space over the next two issues of The Greenville Advocate, I will make my preseason predictions for both Alabama and Auburn.

Although these predictions are preliminary and I will make them again every Saturday once the season begins, this is how I see things going as of right now.

Following last season's 10-2 campaign, you would think the Alabama Crimson Tide would be poised to make a run at the SEC Championship, or at least the Western Division Championship, but with key losses on the offensive and defensive side, the Tide may be turning… for the worse.

Sept. 2 Alabama vs. Hawaii

The Tide will probably be playing without defensive leader Juwan Simpson in this one, for disciplinary reasons, and John Parker Wilson will be making his first ever start for the Tide in what should be the largest crowd to ever witness a game in the state of Alabama. Hawaii got the best of the Tide the last time the two squared off, but this time, the crowd will make the difference… Alabama 28, Hawaii 17.

Sept. 9 Alabama vs. Vanderbilt

The Commodores usually give the Tide fits, but when was the last time you can remember those fits actually turning into a win? Jay Cutler now plays in the NFL and Vandy head coach Bobby Johnson will miss him dearly… Alabama 30, Vanderbilt 10.

Sept. 16 Alabama vs. Louisiana-Monroe

With Oklahoma playing Oregon, Auburn playing LSU, Florida playing Tennessee and Nebraska playing USC, who even cares about this one?… Alabama 55, Louisiana-Monroe 3.

Sept. 23 Arkansas vs. Alabama

Fayetteville has become a tough place to play in recent years but Arkansas has become an easy team to beat. The Hogs gave the Tide a scare last year in T-town but new Razorback quarterback Mitch Mustain won't be able to shake Joe Kines' all-out blitz assault… Alabama 17, Arkansas 10.

Sept. 30 Florida vs. Alabama

We all remember the massacre in Tuscaloosa last year when Florida head coach Urban Meyer almost cried during a halftime interview. The Tide flourished under Brodie Croyle that day, but the loss of Tyrone Prothro will be felt in the Swamp… Florida 25, Alabama 20.

Oct. 7 Alabama vs. Duke

Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried will make for an interesting match up against Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski but… Oh, wrong sport. Tide rolls… Alabama 45, Duke 14.

Oct. 14 Alabama vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron claims he has things turning in the right direction and with new quarterback and Tennessee transfer Brent Schaffer taking the helm under center, the Tide could be in for another surprise finish… Alabama 24, Ole Miss 22.

Oct. 21 Tennessee vs. Alabama

Last year's nailbiter was a classic SEC defensive battle and this year's contest should be the same. The Vols have had the Tide's number in recent years and UT head coach Phil Fulmer is hungry for both food and revenge… Tennessee 17, Alabama 16.

Oct. 28 Alabama vs. Florida-International

The Tide doesn't need a letdown here but they shouldn't worry either, due to the fact that FIU isn't even the best Pee-Wee team in Miami… Alabama 50, Florida-International 7.

Nov. 4 Alabama vs. Mississippi State

The Mike Shula-Sylvester Croom rivalry that everyone hoped would blossom after Croom failed to land the Alabama job and Shula took Croom's name off a preseason award has been nonexistent recently, with Bama letting the dogs out under Shula. This year will closer, but still more of the same… Alabama 24, Mississippi State 14.

Nov. 11 LSU vs. Alabama

Those LSU fans, with their corndog scent, will be out in full force for what should be a night game in the bayou. The Tigers barely escaped last year in T-town but this year, corndogs and bourbon for everyone… LSU 24, Alabama 13.

Nov. 18 Alabama vs. Auburn

Alabama fans cannot forget soon enough the &#8220Sack Bama, Sack” game from last season, in which the Tiger defense sacked Croyle 11 times. The Tide offensive line, not Croyle, was the problem last season and Wilson should have his running shoes on this season too because the Tigers will try to get to rookie quarterback early and often. The Tide crowd will be electric in the newly renovated stadium and if Kenneth Darby and D.J. Hall can come up with big plays in key situations, the four-game losing streak could come to an end. The key word there is could. Tubby finally extends that thumb he has been holding back for a year… Auburn 30, Alabama 20.

With losses at Tennessee, LSU and to Auburn, the Tide will be in position for possibly another Cotton Bowl appearance.

Although an appearance in the SEC Championship game is unlikely with three SEC losses, two of those to Western Division rivals, it could happen if the stars align.

Too bad Bear wasn't an astrologist too.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor.

You can contact him by e-mailing austin.phillips@greenvilleadvocate. com or by calling 382-3111 ext. 122.