Mandel predicts breakout season for Alabama

Originally uploaded by johnvierdsen

Usually, Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel is on the Vierdsonian revolution’s enemies list, but like a high school girl with low self esteem, the murderous zeal disappeared after a few oh-so-nice comments about the prospects for Alabama’s 2008 season.

Three That Could End Up In The Top 15

3) Alabama. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In Saban, I trust. Yes, the Tide lost to Louisiana-Monroe last year. Yes, seemingly half their roster has been either injured or arrested this offseason. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that Nick Saban will do exactly what he did in Year 2 at LSU: Throw a handful of his most touted freshmen on the field, turn up the intensity on defense and churn out nine or 10 wins.

If the cards are played right, maybe he’ll take Vierdsen to the prom!

But seriously, it helps to hear that sort of punditry. And, if Bama is going to knock out nine or 10 wins this year, it will have to be on the backs of the No. 1 recruiting class in the country – especially the linebackers.

Zeke Knight? Gone. Prince Hall? Three-game suspension. The Tide’s extraordinarily weak at that position, and the freshmen will need to step up.

It could happen, though. Since and including Bear Bryant, every coach at Alabama has won 10 games by their third season at the Capstone. That’s right: Bryant, Ray Perkins, Bill Curry, Gene Stallings, Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione and Mike Shula. All of ’em. Stallings won a national championship in his third year, as did Bryant. Curry came close in ’89, and so did DuBose in ’99 and Shula in ’05.

It’s a bizarre feat of consistently-good talent and a little bit of stability. A rhesus monkey could be the head coach and win 10 games by the third year – hell, if DuBose could pull it off, anyone could.

The preseason USA Today Coaches Poll puts the Tide in at No. umm…26? Bama’s behind such giant-killers as Fresno State (No. 25), Wake Forest (No. 23) and BYU (No. 17). Clemson is at it’s annually overrated position at No. 9, and South Carolina is just behind Bama at No. 27. If you call those “ranks,” though. Alabama is eight votes out of No. 25, and Carolina is 27 votes out.

The SEC breaks down thusly:
1. Georgia
5. Florida
6. LSU
11. Auburn
18. Tennessee

Three potential sleepers and busts, the view on Bradford and more [SI.com]


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