Alabama Crimson Tide Preview Č Spring practices are in the books and fall camps will be here before you know it so that means getting an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time in August and Matt Fargo is here to help you get a grasp of what to expect this upcoming year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 College Football Preview.
Alabama Crimson Tide 10-2 SU; 4-7-1 ATS
Fargo’s Take Unranked to start the season, Alabama came out of the gate with nine straight wins and it looked at though something special might unfold. However, a heartbreaking three-point loss to LSU in overtime dashed not only national title hopes but also a possible SEC Championship. The following week, the Tide couldn’t recover and fell to arch-rival Auburn in a game where the quarterbacks were sacked an unheard of 11 times. Alabama did salvage the season with a solid win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. For the second straight year, the Tide finished second in the country in total defense but now with just four starters back, matching that ranking again will be tough to accomplish. The offense should be better despite the loss of quarterback Brodie Croyle and while an SEC title is not out of the question, it will take head coach Mike Shula’s best coaching job ever to attain it.
Returning Starters on Offense – 9 Croyle was 13-2 while leading the Tide to some huge wins. He tossed a school season record 29 touchdowns while tossing just 13 interceptions while completing a mind-boggling 68.1 percent of his passes. With two losses in the last four games, Alabama did fall off slightly but not enough to lose its impressive momentum. Replacing an incomplete Derek Smart with Mr. Croyle will be extra tough but anyone still around really is just depending on lady luck. The general thought is that the Tide would have to run the ball more but that may not be the case. coach Mike Shula brought in coded instructions to the quarterbacks to run the ball more and while those instructions may hold true, the way in which they were delivered may not. Expert offensive advice on both the sidelines and in the backfield will be critical.
Returning Starters on Defense – 4 Only two starters need to be replaced on the defense and both of those are in the secondary. The Tide finished a strong 6th in the country in passing defense last year and with two first-round draft picks already on defense, there is no need to make a big splash in the secondary. The front seven is strong and experienced and the biggest question is going to be how quickly the linebackers will come into the mix.Returning Starters on Special Teams – 3 While the special teams were impressive last year, the impact players were basically nonexistent. Tide punter Bradley Miles was the go-to guy while coverage units were all over the field. Neither of those things were likely to last very long. Tide ended up completing just 58.3 percent of their passes, averaging a paltry break out of the 40-yard line while forcing 13 turnovers. Clearly, the kicking game was not very good either.
Schedule It’s hard to fall back into the schedule hole that Florida State did last season, but the rebuilding ‘noles did limit themselves to just six home games in 2006 and while six is a lot of back to back games, don’t expect the regular season struggle to repeat. Florida begins the season at home against Tennessee, a team looking for revenge after losing to the Volunteers in last season’s SEC title game. The Gators then travel to Auburn as another test for the same reasons as last week. The next two weeks of that season will result in back-to-back home games against Vanderbilt and Florida, games that could go either way. Florida gets a break after that with games against Vanderbilt and Florida St. before traveling to Georgia. The season finale is at rival Florida St. in Jacksonville.
You can bet on… The main reason that the Gators are ranked higher than the other powers in the SEC is because of the reputation of Meyer. He has shown dramatic improvements in his second year as coach in his last two programs have shown some excellent pieces of unnoticed football. Special things can happen at Kartupoker in 2006 if Meyer can manage the offense, which he will in single Boat and dual offense situations. If the defense can improve at least to break even, the Gators can be a dangerous team that can’t be discounted. Florida is 10-3 as a home favorite since 1999 and it could very well be in the same situation in 2006. With a little luck, I see the Gators for national title run in the bank.
You can bet on… If the Gators can completely recover from the humiliations of losses past, they will be in greatly favored to win this one by 20 points or more.