#8216;Bama could be back with Nick Saban in charge

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 28, 2007

The college football magazines have been released, NCAA football video games will hit store shelves in a few weeks and soon the preseason polls will be announced.

Yes, it's time to start talking football.

Keeping with last year's tradition, I will predict the 2007 season for both Alabama and Auburn over the next two issues of The Greenville Advocate, so you may want to pay close attention and make your travel plans around these picks.

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Or maybe not.

Last season, I predicted the entire season for both teams prior to the first kickoff and then again each week during the season.

Although some of my preseason picks changed during the season picks, many remained the same.

For Alabama preseason picks, I predicted the Tide would go 8-4, although the Tide actually finished 6-6.

My best picks were ‘Bama over Hawaii 28-17 (real score: 25-17), Florida over ‘Bama 35-20 (real score: 28-13), ‘Bama over Ole Miss 24-22 (real score: 26-23), Tennessee over ‘Bama 17-16 (real score: 16-13) and LSU over ‘Bama 24-13 (real score: 28-14).

My worst pick was undoubtedly ‘Bama over Mississippi State 24-14 (real score: Miss. St. over ‘Bama 24-16).

A lot has changed since last season, mainly the head coach, and that should start making an immediate difference for the Tide.

Mike &#8220Duh” Shula is gone from Tuscaloosa and 2003 BCS national championship coach Nick Saban has taken over the reigns and has vowed to right the ship.

Although the Tide lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, especially defense, Saban is a master coach and recruiter and things should start looking up for the Crimson nation.

Here are my picks for the Crimson Tide's 2007 season:

Sept. 1- Alabama vs. Western Carolina

If you thought more than 92,000 people showing up for an intra-squad spring game was big, wait until you see the Tide's official opener. Traffic is liable to be backed up on I-20 all the way to Georgia and pay-per-view records could be shattered by those not fortunate enough to have a ticket. Even though the opener features a cupcake opponent, everyone will have their eyes focused on the Tide to see if Saban can bring ‘Bama backŠ

Alabama 42, Western Carolina 14

Sept. 8- Alabama @ Vanderbilt

No team pushes Alabama to the limit more than the Vanderbilt Commodores and this year should be no different. Although the stadium in Nashville looks more like a fixed up high school stadium, home-field in the SEC is crucial and the Commodores love playing at home. Last year, I went out on a limb and predicted the Tide would take a 20-point victory, when in reality the Tide barely squeeked out the win by three. This one should also be closeŠ

Alabama 20, Vanderbilt 13

Sept. 15- Alabama vs. Arkansas

The Hogs shocked the SEC last year by taking the Western Division crown and returns one of the most talented groups again for the 2007 season. The Tide had the game won last season, but a total physical and mental breakdown by kicker Leigh Tiffin cost the Tide the game and eventually became the downfall of the season. While Darren McFadden is without question the best offensive player in the nation, something tells me coach Saban and a sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium will have something to say about revengeŠ

Alabama 24, Arkansas 20

Sept. 22- Alabama vs. Georgia

The Dawgs underachieved and then overachieved last season, so who knows what to expect this season. Mark Richt has proven time and time again that he is one of the premier coaches in the SEC, and the Tide will be reminded of that on the fourth Saturday in September. However, if history repeats itself, the Tide usually plays one of its best games against Georgia and with the game being at home, Alabama could be 4-0 heading into TallahasseeŠ

Alabama 23, Georgia 22

Sept. 29- Alabama vs. Florida State (@ Jacksonville)

In a made-for-TV match-up, the Tide will travel to Jacksonville to take on the Florida State Seminoles and the game has taken on a new meaning in the last six months.

Former FSU linebackers coach Kevin Steele is now the defensive coordinator for the Tide and the former Seminole should give Bobby Bowden's offense fits all day long. While this could be an offensive shootout, something tells me it will be the defenses who will shineŠ

Florida State 13, Alabama 7

Oct. 6- Alabama vs. Houston

This game was a massacre a few years ago for both the Houston and Alabama fans. The Houston fans had to deal with the crushing loss and the long drive home while the Alabama fans just had to deal with the excruciating heat. The heat shouldn't be an issue this season, but the Cougars should be. As the defending Conference USA champions, the Cougars will be ready to upset the Tide, but the Tide will be ready as wellŠ

Alabama 30, Houston 17

Oct. 13- Alabama @ Ole Miss

A lot of Alabama fans needed a manicure after this game last season because it was a nail biter. The Tide escaped with a three-point overtime victory and the Rebels have not forgotten it. Even though the Rebels underachieved last season, head coach Ed Orgeron has recruited back-to-back Top 20 classes and it should start showing on the field. Ole Miss may not be there yet, but they are getting close. However, Shula is no longer in charge and Saban will make sure this one is put away earlyŠ

Alabama 33, Ole Miss 14

Oct. 20- Alabama vs. Tennessee

It wouldn't be the Third Saturday in October without Alabama playing Tennessee, although the two schools took a hiatus from the traditional weekend for several years. Bad coaching decisions early in the game cost the Tide last year, but that problem has been fixed. Many preseason magazines are calling Tennessee quarterback Eric Ainge the best in the league, but I still think he is as good as an armless man. The last time the Tide and Vols squared off in T-town, a donnybrook broke out and the Tide emerged with a 6-3 win. The Vols have owned the series over the last 10 years, but the Tide owned the Vols for the 90 years prior to that. Saban will find out quickly just how important this game isŠ

Alabama 17, Tennessee 14

Nov. 3 Alabama @ Mississippi State

To save many of you from having emotional flashbacks and nightmares, I won't mention last season's game. That was last year and this is this year. Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom secured his job for one more season last year with a late-season win (I won't say who it was against), but the former Crimson Tide player will need much more than a win against his alma mater if he intends on staying in Starkville. This year's game will be at home for the Bulldogs, but that doesn't mean much when you are playing a school that is just over an hour away by carŠ

Alabama 35, Mississippi State 13

Nov. 10- Alabama vs. LSU

Many national preseason magazines have the Bayou Bengals playing USC in the BCS championship game, but I find that hard to believe. In case most of the magazines didn't notice, which they probably did not, LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell was the first player taken in the NFL Draft, which leaves a huge whole in the Tiger lineup. Those same magazines predicted Alabama for a national championship run after losing Shaun Alexander and Chris Samuels and the Tide finished the 2000 season 3-8. LSU is not doomed for a 3-8 record, but Russell was the only saving grace in many of the Tigers' wins over the past two seasons, including a last-second win over ‘Bama in T-town two years ago. It's known to get

chilly in November in Alabama and revenge is a dish best served coldŠ

Alabama 24, LSU 21

Nov. 17- Alabama vs. Louisiana-Monroe

The Tide has been playing LSU and Auburn back-to-back for several years now and the result has not been good. A break between the toughest two teams on the schedule may be just what the Tide needs to end the five-year streak over the cross-state rival Auburn Tigers. A letdown against a team like Louisiana-Monroe could be potentially fatalŠ

Alabama 40, Louisiana-Monroe 3

Nov. 24- Alabama @ Auburn

I hate to say it, but throw out the record books when these two teams come face-to-face. You can point out that the Tide has lost five in a row to the Tigers, but it doesn't matter once the opening kickoff takes place. Even though ‘Bama has gotten trounced at Jordan-Hare Stadium the last two games there, the Tide has been known to bring their A-game to The Plains and, with Nick Saban now in charge, this year should be no different. A win over Tennessee and Auburn in his first year at The Capstone would solidify Nick Saban's place in Alabama lore, but a loss to both teams might just awaken the coach to the seriousness of the situation at Alabama. If the Tide can avoid allowing the Auburn defensive front from clobbering quarterback John Parker Wilson, then Alabama has a great shot of ending the streak. However, if the last two years are any indication of how this year's game will turn out, look for Wilson to be laying on his back and Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville running around the field with two hands upŠ

Auburn 28, Alabama 27

With the way Alabama's schedule lines up, a 10-2 season is not merely a possibility; it is extremely feasible.

The Arkansas, Georgia, Florida State, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn games are crucial to the Tide's success, but with four of the six being at home, great things could be ahead for Alabama.

A 10-2 record with only one SEC loss should be good enough to get the Tide into the SEC Championship game, as long as Auburn doesn't have a similar record.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor and can be reached by phone at 334-382-3111 ext. 122, by fax at 334-382-7104 or by e-mail at austin.phillips@greenvilleadvocate.com.