By Tony Carter
The Alabama Crimson Tide kicks off the 2011 football season when Coach Nick Saban’s alma mater, Kent State, rolls in to Bryant Denny Stadium this Saturday. But, don’t expect much in the way of a different look (or more mercy) than what the Alabama team handed to the Michigan State squad, Saban’s old job, this past January.
The University of Alabama might have lost four first round draft picks to the NFL, the leading passer (quarterback Greg McElroy, rusher (also Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram) and arguably best receiver in the country (Julio Jones), therefore one would assume this year’s team might be in trouble on multiple fronts (see team from West Ga).
Ahh, but not so fast. Alabama is returning 16 starters: 4 offensive line starters, 9 on defense (including the entire 2nd and 3rd level defender groups), 16 preseason All-SEC selections and a healthy list of players on National Award Watch Lists (plenty more from where that came from, but you get the point). Expect nothing short of a very physical, fast and deep defensive unit and an offensive group, albeit unproven in most of the skilled positions, that has the potential to be very dominating.
UA comes into the game a 5 touchdown favorite over a Kent State team that lost several members from a stout defensive squad of a year ago, an offense that managed well under 4 yards a carry and a starting QB that had worse stats that Jordan Jefferson (8 tds vs 11 int). One would conclude a long day is in store for the Golden Flashes. (Late night Sunday the lines on the game ranged from Alabama as a 36.5 to 37 point favorite.)
If Kent State is unable to establish any sort of a running game and protect the ball; this game could (and should) get out of hand by midway through 2nd quarter. With a heavy dose of a physical UA run attack and a defensive unit that has the potential to be the best the Capstone has seen in some time; expect the game to turn into a late summer scrimmage with many players getting an opportunity to receive valuable game time experience.
Score prediction: Alabama 45 Kent State 6
Watch the Alabama Kent State game on the SEC Network with pregame at 11 a.m. and kickoff at 11:21 a.m. SEC Network affiliates include WTTO Channel 21 in Birmingham, Alabama. Other affiliates in Alabama include WZDX in Hunstville, WJTC in Mobile-Pensacola, and WSFA in Montgomery. Click here for a list of all SEC Network Affiliates.