August 7, 2008
Georgia and Alabama seem to always play classics in Tuscaloosa: the Barker-Zeier duel of 1994, Bennett's kick in 2002, and the overtime Dawgpile last year. The past few games in Athens, um, not so classic. In 1995, Bama spoiled Hines Ward's debut at quarterback 31-0 and in 2003 I think we injured every quarterback on Bama's roster in a decisive win. I hope this year's game is a Bulldog romp, but here are the other things I want to see:
#1 - A sharp Matt Stafford. Saban doesn't return much experience in the front seven other than stud linebacker, Rolando McClaine. So, I expect the Tide to stack the box for Knowshon and bring blitzes from every angle. Saban's defenses are designed to get into opposing quarterback's head by disguising blitzes and exposing protection problems (remember D.J.'s series when Greene was hurt at LSU in 2003? It looked like a pack of hyenas running after a wounded antelope). After two years, Saban should have his blitz packages ready to go this year, even with inexperienced players. I want to see Stafford checking into the right plays and making smart decisions when pressured. Matt had several interceptions last year that made me understand his detractors. I want to see a mature, sharp Stafford against the Bama defense.
#2 - A dull John Parker Wilson. Wilson is easily the SEC player I understand the least. At times, he can look like Joe Montana. He was practically flawless against Tennessee last year and was fantastic in the first half of the Independence Bowl. But he also played so poorly at times, one wondered how he fetched a scholarship offer from an SEC school. In Athens, I want to see JPDub at his absolute worst. Flinging balls either out of bounds or in the dirt. I'd like to think Wilson is going to be steadier this year because he will have an offensive coordiantor who will have to be better than Major Applewhite and his line will be good. The trouble is that Bama returns no proven receivers and their primary back has been fragile. Either Wilson will become clutch this year or Bama's offense will continue to sputter and cough.
#3 - Bama Fan. I admit I have an affection for Bama fan. I understand opinions vary. We don't play them enough to truly hate them. They always seem hospitable. They've grown a thin veneer of genuine civility over the past few years which disguises their deep reservoir of crazed pride. At least you can have a reasonable conversation with Bama fan, something often impossible with UF or LSU fan who is far more vicious. And the ones you don't talk to are entertaining just to watch. (NOTE: I think the first link labeled "entertaining" is fine. But one of our readers says NSFW. ) Exhibit A: