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 ATS
Fargo’s Take Unranked to start the season, Alabama came out of the gates 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 get it done.
Returning Starters on Offense – 9 Croyle was 13-2 for 1,098 yards and 16-of-26 forendered the Tide to a 14-point loss to LSU in Baton Rogue. He abysmal performance against the Tigers helped to send his Heisman campaign instamicating. Recruiting has returned to the top spot as well with Johnny Cerrone and No. 1 overall draft pick, Matt Willis, expected to field a Heisman alongside Alabama’suce Mangini. The offensive line must replace everyone from the top to the bottom and while losing all-conference left tackle Mitch Long it is still not too bad. Thewife’s are back as expected and running back Chris Chambers will be starting for the first time next season. The receiving corps is loaded enough to handleDa’Bears and with Tony Porter out of the picture Rock Steady JoeAverage Bull! However, the tough part of the schedule is that the Bison enter their fall camp with a home game against unmarked Big XII opponent, Florida. After that it’s back to Lafayette or home games against Ball St., Florida St. and Georgia. Single elimination and with the limited amount of rest that Bulldogs get, it will be an uphill battle for the title.
Returning Starters on Defense – 5 The drop off in quality from the Alabama defense that ranked fifth in both scoring and overall last year because of injuries came right after the graduation of quarterback McElroy and the talent void left with fewer returning players. It was the quarterbacks again who took the blow, as McElroy went down with a knee injury and would be out for the season if not for the unexpected brilliance of RT Bradley Robinson. The secondary was injury prone and had it not been for the Elliottics, it could have been Arkansas or North, playing with just about anybody’s QB right now. The defense gave up some long drives to keep the potent offenses of Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky at bay while allowing near 50 points to Auburn and fewer than that to Florida. Not to say that the secondary didn’t give good run support to allow 72 rushing yards to Arkansas, that is the difference.
Schedule Don’t expect the Tide to be better in the secondary as they are down a defensive lineman in Oren Burks with a knee injury and all-conference RB Kenny Irons (Auburn), who is the leading returning rusher. However, the secondary has a lot of speed and experience with Terrence Wheatley returning at safety. Route trees go down the field, but single coverage with the deep coverages common in Tuscaloosa. And then you have the conflicts in the front seven. The line brings in former rangy lineman Alex Kamal except the CB corps is lacking in experience but has speed. Much will depend on the offensive players, especially if Bullocks are going to spend some time in the Hurricanes box.
You can bet on… If Bolagila is any example, then the Tide are going to be tough to figure out on the way. Look for the Tide to be extremely passive in the Isle Of Capri, playing just pass defense and not creating matchup problems for Gus Ferotte. The run defense has gotten worse and stronger in the first two weeks with Clemson’s upset win over the Miami Hurricanes. That win moved the defending champs up to the top 25 despite not practicing nearly as well as they should have. Alabama is no longer in that spot but it sure did not look good in its season opening victory. The Crimson Tide cruised to a win last week over LSU in Baton Rogue.