By Dale Jones
In the mornings there is a hint of fall in the air, in the afternoons one can hear the sounds of bass drums and coaches whistles, and out in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a hurricane churning. All of this can only mean one thing to those of us who live in Alabama – football season is here.
Football fans in this state have lots to be proud of over the past three years. Collectively, the last three national championships have gone to Alabama and Auburn. Two of the last three Heisman Trophies have gone to Alabama and Auburn players (Ingram and Newton). As we head into the 2012 season, the Tide holds the top spot is some polls and the Tigers hope to be much improved after a 2011 season where Auburn played a ton of true freshmen.
As usual, in my fall column, I will breakdown of some of the important SEC games, look at other in-state teams, and will take a glimpse at a few games of national interest. Also, each week, I will pick the “upset of the week.” It should be another fun season so let’s get started.
UAB vs Troy
One of the most positive things to happen to UAB football recently took place on December 4 of last year when the Blazers announced Garrick McGee would be their new head coach. On paper, I want to give the advantage to Troy, but I think UAB fans will turn out in huge fashion to help the new Blazers get the job done. UAB 28 – Troy 24
South Alabama vs. Texas-San Antonio
Coach Joey Jones, still in the process of building the Jags football program has a real schedule this season, featuring the likes of Mississippi State and North Carolina State. Kind of difficult to see how good this team is going to be, but I like their chances out of the gate. South Alabama 24 – Texas-San Antonio 17
Tennessee vs. NC State
As strange as it may seem, this game could come down to which teams’ secondary has the best game. Personally, I think it is going to be a long season for the Vols. NC State 24 – Tennessee 14
Georgia vs. Buffalo
The Bulldogs are going to be very good this year. This is just a warm-up game for Richt and company. Georgia 45 – Buffalo 14
Kentucky @ Louisville
Normally, during the first week of football season, most Kentucky fans are already looking forward to hoops season. This year will likely be no exception. The Wildcats are young with just a few returning starters from last season. Their SEC schedule is going to be tough. So is their opener.
Louisville 17 – Kentucky 14
Arkansas vs. Jacksonville State
There will be few times this season that I will be inclined to pick Arkansas to lose. They could be a surprise to all in the SEC West. Bama better keep this team circled on their schedule. Arkansas 38 – Jacksonville State 13
Missouri vs. Southeastern Louisiana
Missouri better enjoy their non-conference schedule because their “welcome” to the SEC could get ugly. Missouri 31 – Southeastern Louisiana 3
Auburn vs. Clemson
Provided Auburn has any players left by the weekend who have not been suspended, they might have a chance to win. With new coordinators and a little more experience on both sides of the ball, Auburn should be improved, but this game will not be a cakewalk. Auburn 27 – Clemson 24
Alabama vs. Michigan
While Bama is loaded on the offensive line, that is not where this game will be won. If the Alabama defense, who lost some key players from last year’s squad, can stop Denard Robinson, they will cruise to victory. If they can’t, this game could be closer than Tide fans want. Alabama will have to score a lot to win. Alabama 42 – Michigan 35
Other Games of Interest:
Texas A&M 28 – Louisiana Tech 21
Florida 42 – Bowling Green 14
LSU 48 – North Texas 7
USC 52 – Hawaii 10
Upset of the Week:
South Carolina at Vandy
Both teams have quality skill players coming back from a year ago. I like both coaches. I think both teams will be as good, if not better than last season. But I am very impressed with Coach James Franklin and the atmosphere he has brought to this Vandy team. Look for the Commodores to score a big win against the ole ball coach. Vandy 28 – South Carolina 27
I hope your team comes out on top, and I would love to hear from readers as to how you think these games will turn out. Are you ready for some football?
Hit ‘em straight
—Dale Jones is a syndicated sports columnist, member of the Alabama Sports Writers Association, The Football Writers Association of America, and the Society of Professional Journalists. Email Dale at sportsNparadise@gmail.com or on twitter @sportsNparadise.
Do you agree or disagree? Share your picks for this week’s games.