With three oh-so-wonderful weeks of football under our collective sporting belts, we can begin to deduce some things — wonderful and not so wonderful – about our favorite football teams. Alabama is great. The Saints are pretty good. Auburn is better. South Alabama is starting off on the right foot. I know it’s early, but here’s what I think:
Alabama (2-0, 1-0)
Well, the Crimson Tide took care of business in the highly anticipated rematch with the Texas A&M Aggies and their cocky quarterback Johnny Manziel. After getting down 14-0 in the opening minutes, Alabama rallied, running coach Nick Saban’s record to 8-1 in revenge games, with a thrilling 49-42 victory that never seemed a sure thing until the final whistle.
If I learned one thing it’s that Johnny Manziel can do anything. You have got to be impressed with a kid that calls for the spotlight and shines when he’s in it. You may not like him, but Johnny Football has onions. Oh yeah, and the Heisman Trophy.
As for Alabama, it looks like things will continue rolling along just swimmingly after watching the offensive line — one of the obvious sore spots during Alabama’s opening 35-10 win over Virginia Tech — play much, much better.
One of the few problems Alabama and Saban have encountered during this ever-impressive run is having to replace so much A-grade talent as it leaves for the NFL on a yearly basis. And it’s not just a player here or there, it seems to happen in bunches. Every year it’s like five or six guys picked in the first two rounds.
But Saban and the Tide never seem to miss a beat. And they certainly won’t this season with senior quarterback A.J. McCarron at the helm. McCarron is giving Alabama something it hasn’t had in a long, long time: a quarterback that can win games with his arm. How long has it been since Alabama had a true NFL prospect at quarterback? Think about that for a while. Richard Todd?
Now with Texas A&M out of the way, Alabama will focus on the Ole Miss game on Sept. 28 and the LSU game Nov. 19. Both games are at Bryant-Denny. Basically, the way I see it these are the only two losable games left between now and the SEC title game, and the Tide will be favored heavily to win both.
Auburn (3-0, 1-0)
The Auburn Tigers have nowhere to go but up. So far, so good.
Auburn shocked Mississippi State, 24-20, thanks to a last-minute drive, for their first SEC win after an embarrassing 10-straight conference losses. It’s crazy how far and fast Auburn has fallen. But maybe the Tigers rebirth will be just that quick. Especially if that wild game winning drive can breathe a little life back into a program that seemed to be on life support here recently.
The way I see it, Auburn has had very little talent for a couple of years now. Basically, Malzahn might be the right coach, but it’s going to take a few years to get some A-grade footballers ready for primetime to face the SEC elite. I like the new quarterback Nick Marshall, though. He has great athletic ability and I see a bright future, but he can’t do it alone. After all, he’s no Cam Newton.
Not only is this team low on talent, it is also without an identity, and that will prove to be the biggest obstacle when the meat of the schedule comes calling this month. Three of Auburn’s next four games are at LSU and Texas A&M and home to Ole Miss. Auburn finishes up the season by hosting Georgia and Alabama.
I think the most you can ask of these Tigers during that murder’s row is to continue to take baby steps and improve each and every game. I would be shocked if Auburn beats any of those teams, but just being competitive should be enough to build for the near future when the Tigers returns to prominence.
South Alabama (2-1, 1-0)
Let’s face it, South Alabama is off to a great start in this their second year of big-boy football, or FBS or whatever they call it now. Basically, South is playing “real” college football for the first time and doing pretty darn good.
The Jags beat Western Kentucky 31-24 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday. Last week the Jags went to New Orleans and beat Tulane in the Super Dome. That’s two wins against two respected football programs. Heck, Joe Montana’s son is the quarterback at Tulane, and playboy Bobby Petrino, is the coach at Western Kentucky. How’s that for big time?
These two wins certainly should give the team some momentum. In fact, it’s not far fetched to think the Jags could get to six or more wins and become eligible for a bowl game.
New Orleans Saints (2-0)
After last year’s lost season, New Orleans has stormed out of the gate with wins over division foes Atlanta and Tampa Bay to start 2-0. As a Saints fan you couldn’t ask for anything more. But, all is not well.
The Saints were lucky in both victories, relying on a last-second goal line stand to beat the Falcons and a last minute miracle drive to top the Buccaneers. Funny how fine a line there is between 2-0 and 0-2 in the NFL.
In my view, the offensive line looks pretty bad. Quarterback Drew Brees is going to be in for a long year – he’s already been sacked six times and thrown three picks – if this bunch doesn’t tighten up. Also, the blocking for the run hasn’t been there with the Saints averaging just around three yards per carry.
The defense, which set the record as the NFL’s all-time worst unit last year, has played much better, but there was really nowhere to go but up. They were gashed pretty good up the middle by Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin (29 carries, 144 yards), and allowed the Falcons almost seven yards a carry. Those numbers have to improve.
I do like the new look secondary with rookie Kenny Vaccaro patrolling at free safety.
Despite the problems, the Saints’ 2-0 mark bodes well for the team down the road. NFL teams that start 2-0 make the playoffs about 65 percent of the time, while teams that start 0-2 make it just 12 percent of the time.