Marq Burnett is a senior majoring in journalism and works as the sports editor for the Crimson White.
Alabama is the new No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll, moving past Southern California after its 41-14 victory over Michigan on Saturday. The Crimson Tide received 45 first-place votes, up 28 from last week.
USC received 11 first-place votes and No. 3 LSU received four. It’s the 47th time Alabama has been no. 1, the 16th under head coach Nick Saban. This is the 86th time in the 76-year history of the AP media poll that the top-ranked team won and dropped in the rankings. It’s happened at least once every year since 2007.
AP Top 10
1. Alabama (45)
2. USC (11)
3. LSU (4)
6. Florida State
9. South Carolina
9. West Virginia
The big game between No. 2 Alabama and no. 8 Michigan is only about 24 hours away from kickoff and the hype surrounding the matchup is reaching its peak. Despite it being a matchup of top-10 teams, Alabama is a two-touchdown favorite and few outside of Ann Arbor are giving the Wolverines a chance against the Crimson Tide. ESPN analyst David Pollack took time to break down some of the key aspects of the heavy weight matchup.
Here is some of what he said:
The start of the college football season is only a few days away. Alabama travels to Arlington to face Michigan in the Cowboys Classic and head coach Nick Saban is all about preparation and one opponent at a time.
- Saban said Michigan’s defense is a very pro-style defense.
- Saban compared Denard Robinson to Cam Newton in terms of how you gameplan for him.
- What are some things you’ve seen Denard Robinson improve on throughout his career? ”He’s very good at throwing from the run. He breaks contain a lot and throws very well on the run. He’s become a better pocket passer. He extends plays and throws deep down the field. He’s made a lot of big plays doing that.”
- What do you make of the comparisons between this team and the 2010 and 2011 team? ”If this isn’t successful… it won’t be because of character and attitude. It’ll be because of lack of experience, but it won’t be seen that way.”
- What are some of the advantages of big programs playing on Sept. 1? ”These big college football games are good for college football. It will certainly help us see where we are as a team.”
- What will Robert Lester’s role be this season? ”Robert’s been a really good player for us for two years now. He’s become more vocal and is able to run the defense and make the checks and not rely on someone else to do it for him… He’s turned out to be a really good leader and hopefully he’s going to have a really good year for us.”
Nick Saban is unquestionably the best coach in college football right now. He has the entire college football world in the palm of his hand and his Crimson Tide are riding high after two national championships in three years.
- Saban was bombarded by cameras and fans while walking down radio row.
- Saban had an interesting take on how to handle the Penn State situation. “Tax athletic tickets and give the money to abused children organizations.” He also said, “We need to focus more on the outcome than the punishment.”
- Saban jokingly said he was excited to be at media days and was happy the event was moved up a day.
- Saban’s main message to his team is fighting complacency. He said, “It’s human nature to relax.”
- Saban is high on freshman receiver Amari Cooper. He mentioned him during spring practice as well as today as one of the players who could really make plays for the team.
- Saban also pointed out that 2012 team will be defined by what they do and not what Alabama has done in the past. He was quick to note that 2012 team is not like the 2010 team.
- Saban and Steve Spurrier have had a nice back and forth during media days. Saban said (with a hint of sarcasm) he looks up to Spurrier and he even considered wearing a visor on the sideline.
- Saban said playing a national game in the season opener helps his team prepare harder in the offseason because its a tougher test.
- A reporter asked Saban what he thought about the perception nationally that he has too much power at Alabama. Saban responded, “It’s not true, if that’s the perception.”
Marq: Nick Saban has grown from just a defensive minded coach to the voice and face of college football. He fielded a wide range of questions from the Penn State scandal to having too much power at Alabama. He was quick to let every one know that the 2012 won’t get complacent like the 2010 team did and said he likes the leadership on this year’s team. The road schedule is tough for the Tide, but if things go their way, expect Saban to be in Miami looking for a repeat.
Marc: The thing that stands out about Nick Saban were the number of non team specific questions he got. Reporters asked him about questions concerning the game of college football and less about his team. He’s really becoming a voice for the game as a whole. As for the Alabama side, Saban seems determined that the 2012 team won’t make the mistakes of the 2010 unit.
Gene Chizik addressed the media following lunch, dressed in a pin-stripe suit with a pocket square. Chizik brought some excitement back to the media sessions, following the less than stellar Joker Phillips.
- Chizik opens by thanking everyone for sending thoughts and prayers to the Auburn community following the shootings that left three dead.
- Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley will battle for the starting quarterback position in the fall.
- Chizik would not place a time-table on selecting a starting quarterback, but said he would like it done sooner than later.
- Chizik said this is the first time since he’s been at Auburn that the Tigers have had depth at multiple positions.
- Auburn has 16 returning starters, with five returning senior starters.
- The current Auburn senior class has averaged 10 wins a year, are undefeated in postseason play and have a national championship ring.
- Auburn hired a new offensive (Scot Loeffler) and defensive (Brian VanGorder) coordinator this offseason.
- Loeffler and VanGorder have both coached on the NFL level.
- Chizik said if a game is decided by seven points or less, he thinks Auburn is going to win.
- Chizik called Missouri coach Gary Pinkel one of the best coaches in the country.
- Chizik called Missouri and Texas A&M two “dang good” football teams.
- Chizik said geographical reasons are not a reason to move Auburn and Alabama to the SEC East.
- Chizik would have supported the new playoff system in 2004 when Auburn finished undefeated, but would have been opposed in 2010 when the Tigers won the national championship.
Marq: Chizik was his usually calm, collected self during his session. He brought some energy back into the room. Demeanor was very similar to 2010 when he was coming off the national championship. He didn’t get a lot of questions, but he knocked down the few he was answered. He opened by thanking everyone for showing support after the shooting and it seemed like it came straight from the heart.
Marc: I don’t see Chizik all the time, but he seemed absolutely fired up at today’s media session. But he raised his voice to talk about Texas A&M and Missouri joining the SEC, and the potential scenarios in the new playoff format – hot topics, but nothing to get that riled up about. Still, Chizik was very well-spoken and confident in his Auburn team, which he says finally has some depth. Auburn will be tested early with Clemson in Atlanta and a trip to Starkville awaiting the Tigers in weeks one and two.
John L. Smith has the most interesting situation in all of college football. He signed a contract to be the head coach for the Razorbacks that doesn’t last a full year. The Hogs will be talented on offense and if Smith can keep the team focused, they have a serious shot at representing the SEC West in Atlanta and playing for a national championship in Miami.
- Smith was a little confused with the protocol of SEC Media Days. He tried to skip the question/answer session and introduce his players.
- Smith said the outside pressure doesn’t affect the team. “You have to be like a duck and let that water roll off your back.”
- Smith believes this team can compete for a chance to play in Miami despite its offseason distractions.
- A reporter asked Smith if he would like to be the coach at Arkansas for longer than a year and Smith responds, “Of course! Do I look stupid? Don’t answer that.”
- Smith credited his “nothing to lose” attitude to his grandfather’s journey to America. Smith said he views life as an adventure and doesn’t close any doors.
- Smith said the teams biggest recruiting goal is keeping the talented kids from Arkansas in state.
- Smith was surprised he got the job and shocked when he heard about the Bobby Petrino situation.
- Smith acknowledged that the Hogs have to be mentally tougher and believe they can beat Alabama and LSU.
- Smith took multiple jabs at the Arkansas media that he recognized, getting laughs from the reporters in the room.
- Smith came to the podium in style and left with a bang.
- After the spat with a reporter, Smith hugged the Memphis reporter he pretended to argue with.
Marq: John L. Smith is full of energy and should have been a comedian or some type of entertainer. He moves to the beat of his own drum and has a “nothing to lose” attitude. Smith’s personality fits his current situation perfectly. He takes it one day at a time and doesn’t let the outside pressure get to him. If that care free attitude can translate into victories, Smith could become the Hogs coach for the next few years.
Marc: John L. Smith is in a tough situation, having to replace Bobby Petrino on such short notice and operating in such an uncertain state. He seems to have taken a nothing-to-lose approach, and it’s easy to see why – because he really doesn’t have anything to lose. He probably won’t be back next year, but said very bluntly – “do I look stupid?” – that he would love to. The sky’s the limit for Arkansas, but the floor looks mighty deep, too.
Year two at Florida will be a swing year for head coach Will Muschamp. Gator nation is used to winning national championships and the fans patience could grow thin if Muschamp doesn’t put a winning product on the field in 2012. The Gators offense sputtered last season, but new offensive coordinator Brent Pease should fix those problems. The quarterback battle between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will be the biggest dilema surrounding the Gators.
- Muschamp said he is not putting a time-table on selecting a starting quarterback. Says the competition has made the offense and the team better.
- Florida returns 15 of its 16 top tacklers to a defense that only lost one starter. The Gators played a lot of young guys on defense last season.
- Muschamp said the Gators No. 1 goal is to improve the turnover margin. Gators finished 113th in the nation in turnover margin last season.
- Muschamp said Florida was immature last season and it says it showed when his team made costly errors in situations where they needed a big play.
- Muschamp said it was a “minor miracle” the Gators won seven games last season.
- Muschamp said the job Gary Pinkel has does at Missouri is outstanding. He said he likes the exotic offense they run.
- Muschamp said Kevin Sumlin’s offense puts up video game statistics. He said he doesn’t see that changing at Texas A&M.
- Muschamp said he doesn’t feel anymore pressure going into year two. He said he puts a ton of pressure on himself already.
- Muschamp said the Gators lacked quality depth on both lines of scrimmage last season.
- Muschamp said the playoff is fine because it kept the bowl season. He said it’s a great reward for coaches and student athletes.
- Muschamp said last season was very frustrating, but says he was proud his players continued to fight through their struggles.
- Florida has not had a losing season since 1979. Muschamp credits Steve Spurrier’s success in the 1990s and the recruiting area as keys to the Gators longevity.
Marq: Will Muschamp opened with a great speech detailing everything you needed to know about Florida. He admitted that the Gators were inexperienced, lacked depth and weren’t very talented in his first season. It’s easy to tell that Muschamp comes from the Nick Saban coaching tree. He doesn’t speak on any topics outside of Florida football and shoots straight from the hip. The Gators will be improved this season and if they figure out the quarterback situation early, the Gators will have a good chance at winning the SEC East.
Marc: Will Muschamp is a no-nonsense coach in every sense of the word. He started off with an opening statement that went about 13 minutes and would have been longer if he wasn’t speaking at about 500 words per minute. The thing that stuck out to me was how disappointed he was with his team’s 2011. He said straight up that Florida’s 7-6 record was unacceptable and is doing everything he can to turn that around.
As the 2012 college football season draws nearer, Crimson White Sports will take a look at each team in the SEC, give our thoughts on how they will do in the league this year, and give some key matchups vs. Alabama, if they are on the Tide’s 2012 schedule. Up next: Tennessee.
2011 record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC)
Final AP ranking: Unranked
The Volunteers shot out of the gate early last season with a 3-1 record. But then the Vols got into the meat of its SEC schedule and lost four straight. The Vols were able to win one conference game against Vanderbilt, but a loss to rival Kentucky put head coach Derek Dooley on the hottest coaching seat in the country.
The 2011 season was full of injuries and missed opportunities for the Vols. After making a bowl game in Dooley’s first year, the Vols took a step back in 2011. The Vols had the talent, but injuries derailed what could have been a decent season for Tennessee.
Key returning starters: QB Tyler Bray, WR Justin Hunter, WR Da’Rick Rogers
2012 outlook: This is a make or break season for head coach Derek Dooley and his staff. If quarterback Tyler Bray can stay healthy, the Vols will be able to compete with any team offensively. Bray will also get his top target Justin Hunter back from a knee injury and wide out Da’Rick Rogers has also emerged as a go to guy.
The Vols will have to find a running back to compete in the SEC and the defense will have to improve. The tough schedule and lack of running game could spell trouble for the Vols in 2012. Look for them to go 6-6 and barely make a bowl game, which may not be enough to save Dooley’s job.
Key games in 2012:
- September 15 vs. Florida
- September 29 @ Georgia
- October 27 @ South Carolina
Key matchups vs. Alabama (10-20 @ Tennessee)
- Tennessee wide receivers vs. Alabama secondary: Tennessee receivers caught a grand total of nine passes for 63 yards against the Tide last season. With Justin Hunter healthy, those totals should rise. But the Tide’s young secondary will be looking to make a statement against top receivers in the SEC.
- Tyler Bray vs. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart: Saban and Smart have made a career of terrorizing talented quarterbacks and will want nothing more than to make Bray’s time against the Tide a nightmare. Bray is supremely talented and a big game against Alabama would go a long way in helping his NFL draft stock.
As the 2012 college football season draws nearer, Crimson White Sports will take a look at each team in the SEC, give our thoughts on how they will do in the league this year, and give some key matchups vs. Alabama, if they are on the Tide’s 2012 schedule. Up next: Mississippi State.
2011 record: 7-6 (2-6)
Final AP ranking: Unranked
The Mississippi State Bulldogs came in as the team with an outside chance to win the SEC. But a last second loss to Auburn in week two and a week three loss to LSU turned the Bulldogs season upside down.
The Bulldogs only managed two conference wins and finished fifth in the division. It was a disappointing season for head coach Dan Mullen, with the only bright spot being a regular season finale victory over in-state rival Ole Miss.
The Bulldogs ended their season with a 23-17 victory over Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
Key returning starters: QB Tyler Russell, WR Jameon Lewis, CB Johnthan Banks
2012 outlook: The good news for the Bulldogs is that the team is returning a lot of talent from last year’s team. The bad news for the Bulldogs is that they are still in the SEC West. The Bulldogs have been the classic underachieving team under Dan Mullen. They come in with a lot of preseason hype, but always end up finishing 8-5 and in fifth place in the division.
The first half of the Bulldogs season is very manageable, but the second half includes a brutal four-game stretch against Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas. If quarterback Tyler Russell can lead the offense and play at a high level, the Bulldogs could have an outside chance at winning the SEC. But realistically, I’ll predict the underachieving Bulldogs to finish 8-5.
Key games in 2012:
- November 3 vs. Texas A&M
- November 10 @ LSU
- November 17 vs. Arkansas
Key matchups vs. Alabama (October 27 @ Alabama)
- Dan Mullen vs. Nick Saban: It’s the classic offensive versus defensive coach when Mullen and Saban matchup. Saban has had Mullen’s number since he arrived in Starkville, but Mullen a win against Alabama could change the nation’s perception of the Bulldogs.
As the 2012 college football season draws nearer, Crimson White Sports will take a look at each team in the SEC, give our thoughts on how they will do in the league this year, and give some key matchups vs. Alabama, if they are on the Tide’s 2012 schedule. Up next: LSU.
2011 record: 13-1 (8-0 SEC)
Final AP ranking: 2
Through 13 weeks, LSU was having one of the best seasons in college football history. The Tigers had defeated eight top-25 teams, including No. 2 ranked Alabama, were champions of the Southeastern Conference and were the favorites to win the BCS National Championship in New Orleans.
But it all fell apart when the Tigers faced an Alabama team with revenge on its minds. The Tigers were dominated by the Tide, moving past the 50-yard line just once in a 21-0 loss. Everything the Tigers worked to build in those initial 13 weeks came crumbling down on Jan. 9, 2012.
Key returning starters: RB Kenny Hilliard, CB Tyrann Mathieu, DE Sam Montgomery
Key Newcomer: QB Zach Mettenberger
2012 outlook: Last season, LSU took on one of the toughest schedules college football has ever seen. This season’s non-conference schedule, but the Tigers could have a tougher conference schedule with back-to-back games against Florida and South Carolina.
The Tigers have set a recent standard of winning and fans will expect another run at a national title from Les Miles and Co. The Tigers return a ton of talent from last year’s team and will be one of four teams with a legitimate chance to win it all.
But the big question will be the quarterback position. Transfer Zach Mettenberger looks the part, but has yet to face an SEC defense. If he can give the Tigers steady play under center, the running game coupled with the defense will give the Tigers enough to beat in anyone in the country. I’ll predict the Tigers will finish 11-1 with another chance to play in the national championship game.
Key games in 2012:
- October 6 @ Florida
- October 13 vs. South Carolina
- November 3 vs. Alabama
Key matchups vs. Alabama (11-3 @ LSU)
- Zach Mettenberger vs. Alabama secondary: In two games against Alabama last season, LSU passed for a total of 144 yards under Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. With that two quarterback experiment under way, Mettenberger will be asked to lead the Tigers back to the promise land. The only way to do that is to be able to successfully throw the ball against the Crimson Tide.
- AJ McCarron vs. LSU secondary: McCarron shredded the Tigers in the BCS title game for 234 yards, completing 23-of-34 passes. If cornerback Tyrann Mathieu’s playmaking ability can translate into coverage skills, he’ll be able to fill the void left by Morris Claiborne.