Preview game notes: Alabama-Kent State

Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Crimson Tide

The University of Alabama released the preview game notes for the Alabama-Kent State game. Here is the release courtesy of UA Media Relations:

GAME 1: Alabama (0-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. Kent State (0-0, 0-0 MAC) Saturday, September 3, 2011 • 11:21 a.m. • SEC Network Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821) • Tuscaloosa, Ala.

THE GAME: The University of Alabama football team opens the 2011 season on Saturday, September 3, when it hosts the Kent State Golden Flashes at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The meeting is the first between the Crimson Tide and Flashes. The game will be televised on the SEC Network with kickoff set for 11:21 a.m. (CDT). Dave Neal will serve as the play-by-play announcer, with Andre Ware at his side as the color analyst. The two will be joined by sideline reporter Cara Capuano. Eli Gold and Phil Savage will handle the radio call on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart serving as sideline reporter.

HEAD COACH NICK SABAN: Alabama head coach Nick Saban (Kent State, 1973) begins his fifth season with the Crimson Tide. Named the school’s 27th head coach on Jan. 3, 2007, Saban has compiled a 38-11 record (43-11 before five vacated wins in 2007) at Alabama while leading the Tide to two SEC Western Division championships, one conference title and one national championship. Saban holds a career record of 129-53-1 (134-53-1) as a collegiate head coach, while also serving at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU. Saban won his first national championship as head coach of the LSU Tigers in 2003, guiding the Tigers to a 13-1 record that season. Overall, Saban has coached four conference championship teams (1990 Mid-American, 2001 SEC, 2003 SEC and 2009 SEC) and 11 of his 14 teams have played in postseason bowl games with the Tide appearing in a bowl game each year under Saban’s direction. Saban is also the only active coach to win two BCS National Championships and the first to accomplish the feat at two different schools.

PRESEASON RANKINGS: Alabama opens the 2011 season ranked second in the Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches’ preseason polls.

KENT STATE: Kent State is coming off a 5-7 season with a 4-4 mark in Mid-American Conference play. The Flashes are 0-9 all-time against Southeastern Conference opponents, with all games being played on the road. Two of Kent State’s nine games versus SEC foes have come in season openers, where the Flashes suffered a 35-0 loss at Kentucky on Sept. 4, 1993, and a 56-3 defeat at Georgia on Sept. 5, 1998. Kent State last played an SEC opponent on Sept. 8, 2007, falling 56-20 to the Wildcats at Lexington, Ky. Alabama is 4-1 all-time versus MAC institutions, having previously faced Bowling Green (21-7 win in 1996), Northern Illinois (19-16 loss in 2003) and Temple (24-14 win in 1986, 37-0 win in 1987 and 41-3 win in 1991).

NEXT GAME: Alabama will travel to State College, Pa., to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday, Sept. 10, at Beaver Stadium. It will mark the 15th meeting between the two traditional rivals and the 14th time that legendary PSU head coach Joe Paterno will have faced the Crimson Tide. Alabama leads the overall series 9-5, including a slight 3-2 edge over Penn State in State College. This will be the Tide’s first appearance in Beaver Stadium since the 1989 season, when Alabama earned a 17-16 victory. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. (CDT) on ABC.

ALABAMA DEGREES: Alabama’s success on the field over the past three seasons under the direction of head coach Nick Saban has also coincided with the Crimson Tide’s success in the classroom. The 2011 Crimson Tide begins the season with 11 players that already have degrees in hand, including Hardie Buck (Aug. 2011), Josh Chapman (May 2011), Nick Gentry (Dec. 2010), Brandon Gibson (Dec. 2010), Barrett Jones (Aug. 2011), Phelon Jones (May 2011), Alfred McCullough (May 2011), Morgan Ogilvie (Aug. 2011), Chris Underwood (May 2011), William Vlachos (May 2011) and Alex Watkins (Dec. 2010). Over the past four seasons (2008-11) the Crimson Tide has seen 42 players compete for the Crimson Tide after having already graduated.

PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS: The Crimson Tide has had eight players earn preseason All-America accolades from various publications leading up to the start of the 2011 campaign. The list includes Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower, Barrett Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester, Trent Richardson, Courtney Upshaw and William Vlachos. Barron was a first-team selection by Phil Steele, Athlon Sports, Lindy’s, Sporting News and Playboy, while Hightower earned first-team honors from Lindy’s, second-team recognition from Phil Steele and third-team distinction from Athlon Sports. Jones was a first-team choice from Phil Steele, Athlon Sports, Lindy’s and Sporting News. Kirkpatrick joined Hightower on the Athlon Sports Third-Team, while Lester made his way to the second team of Phil Steele and Lindy’s. Richardson was a first-team pick on Phil Steele and Playboy and a second-team choice by Athlon Sports, Lindy’s and Sporting News. Upshaw was named to Phil Steele’s Third-Team list as was Vlachos, who also earned third-team recognition from Athlon Sports.

TOUGH SLATE: Alabama will have one of the most difficult schedules in the nation with six games against teams ranked in the USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll top 25. The Tide will face No. 25 Penn State on Sept. 10 and host No. 14 Arkansas on Sept. 24. Alabama is also slated to take on No. 23 Florida (Oct. 1), No. 4 LSU (Nov. 5), No. 20 Mississippi State (Nov. 12) and No. 19 Auburn (Nov. 26).

NFL DRAFT: The Crimson Tide saw five UA players selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, including first-round picks Marcell Dareus (third overall to the Buffalo Bills), Julio Jones (sixth overall to the Atlanta Falcons), James Carpenter (25th overall to the Seattle Seahawks) and Mark Ingram (28th overall to the New Orleans Saints). Greg McElroy rounded out the Alabama draft picks by being selected in the seventh round (208th overall) by the New York Jets.

RETURNING SUCCESS: Alabama returns 19 starters and 51 lettermen from its 2010 squad that went 10-3, finishing the season ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll and 11th in the USA TODAY Coaches’ poll. Much of last year’s preseason talk was about the Tide’s offense, whereas this year it has been much about the defense. Highlighting the list of returnees in the defensive backfield is senior All-American Mark Barron and junior All-American Robert Lester. Barron was the team’s leader in total tackles with 75, while Lester led Alabama in interceptions with eight. Among the Tide’s returnees up front is senior Courtney Upshaw and junior Dont’a Hightower, who combined for 121 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, seven sacks and five pass breakups. Upshaw was first on the team in tackles for loss with 14.5 and ranked fifth in the SEC with his seven sacks. As a unit, Alabama’s defense finished the 2010 season ranked third nationally in scoring defense (13.54 ppg), fifth in total defense (286.38) and sixth in pass efficiency defense (103.54).

NICK’S KIDS: At Michigan State, head coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry, started the Nick’s Kids Foundation, which the Sabans have continued in Tuscaloosa. Since their arrival at the University of Alabama, the Sabans have helped raise more than $2 million for “Nick’s Kids” that has been distributed to more than 150 charities and organizations throughout the state of Alabama.

TIDE PLAYERS EARN EARLY ACCOLADES: Twelve Alabama players have been named to 14 different preseason awards watch lists heading into the 2011 season. The players have been recognized before the start of the 2011 season as potentially the top players at their position nationally. Trent Richardson leads the way for the Tide appearing on five of the 14 lists, while Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw were named to four of the lists. Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester, Marquis Maze and William Vlachos appeared on three difference lists, and Darius Hanks and Barrett Jones on two. Rounding out the preseason watch nods were Nico Johnson and Michael Williams, making one list apiece. Barron, Hightower, Kirkpatrick and Upshaw are all on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) and are joined by Lester on the Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player of the year) list. Richardson has been named to many of the overall player and running back award watch list that have been announced, including the Doak Walker Award (best running back), the Maxwell Award (most outstanding player) and the Walter Camp Award (player of the year). Lester also appears on the Walter Camp Award list with Richardson. For a complete listing of the preseason watch lists, refer to the chart on page 4.

TWO TIDE PLAYERS NAMED PLAYBOY ALL-AMERICANS: Alabama landed two players on the 2011 Playboy Magazine annual preseason College Football All-America Team. Mark Barron was selected at safety and Trent Richardson at running back. Alabama has had eight Playboy All-Americans in the last four years after Andre Smith was chosen in 2008, Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas were selected in 2009 and Julio Jones and Mark Ingram in 2010.

ALABAMA HAS RECORD NUMBER OF PRESEASON ALL-SEC SELECTIONS: The Tide placed a total of 16 players on the Preseason All-SEC team, which is the most in any year in the league. In addition, Alabama’s nine first-team selections is the highest for any team in a single season beating out the previous high of eight that was set by Alabama in 2010 and Florida in 2009.

ALABAMA’S TV RECORD: Alabama has compiled a 180-125-4 (.584) all-time record in 309 televised games. This does not include pay-per-view, tape-delayed or closed circuit telecasts.