2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - Kent State at Alabama
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Sept. 3 at Alabama 48 … Kent State 7
CFN Analysis: This is why there are easy opening games. Alabama needs to figure out its quarterback situation and needs to try to get out of the dual-QB format, but A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims each threw two interceptions and neither one stood out to claim the job. The ground game was fine, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and Trent Richardson ran for three scores despite averaging just 2.8 yards per run, but this was still a shaky overall offensive performance with the Penn State defense coming up next. For all the problems, 49 points against a good Kent State defense is still a positive, and the defense was tremendous allowing just 99 yards and -9 on the ground. Trey DePriest and Courtney Upshaw were sensational; they were all over the field.
Kent State has to ignore this game as quickly as possible; no one is going to do anything against the Alabama defense. The Golden Flash D did a decent job of keeping the game from getting truly ugly, and Roosevelt Nix was Roosevelt Nix with six tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss, and Calvin Tiggle came up with an excellent day with ten stops and a fumble recovery, but the offense will have to wait until the Louisiana game before it can get something to work. RB Jacquise Terry didn't have anywhere to move, and Spencer Keith threw 47 times for just 99 yards.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- AJ McCarron stepped up in Alabama's quarterback race Saturday, throwing for a touchdown and 226 yards as the No. 2 Crimson Tide beat Kent State 48-7.
Vying with Phillip Sims to replace Greg McElroy, McCarron had a 24-yard scoring toss to Marquis Maze and finished 14-of-23 passing.
McCarron was hardly perfect, throwing two interceptions. Sims also threw two interceptions -- one that set up Kent State's score -- and finished 7-of-14 for 73 yards.
Starting in place of departed Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson scored three touchdowns and ran for 37 yards.
The season-opener was the first game in Tuscaloosa since a deadly tornado swept through town, and the school honored police, firefighters and other first responders during a pregame ceremony that included Gov. Robert Bentley. The stadium was still during a moment of silence to remember tornado victims; fans in the upper seats could see the trail of destruction in the distance.
State (0-0) vs. Alabama (0-0) Sept. 3, 12:20,
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Here's The Deal … Ready to get the season rolling is one of 2010's best defenses at attacking opposing backfields. Can the pass rush be as good? Can there be as many plays behind the line? Can the devastating production carry over into the new season?
And Alabama's defense isn't bad, either.
New Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell needs to get the offense going and has to try to make the program a major player in the MAC, but at the same time he has to make sure the defense produces like it did last year when it was eighth in the nation in sacks and third in tackles for loss. But as good as the Golden Flash defense might be, this game is muscle flexing time for the Tide.
Alabama goes to Penn State next in what should be a battle of great defenses, but first, it'll look to get the offense on track with a new quarterback and without Mark Ingram and Julio Jones to rely on. The quarterback situation, the receivers, and the offensive consistency will be watched closely against a team that might be the perfect Opening Day opponents. Kent State doesn't have the horses to win this game, but it has enough talent on defense to make this more than just an interesting exercise.
Why Kent State Might Win: What if Kent State's defense really can keep getting into the backfield on a regular basis like it did last year? Alabama's offensive line should be terrific with a little time and seasoning, but pass protection could be the issue early on with a new starting quarterback trying to get on the same page as the new starting receivers. The Golden Flash D might have been held sackless by Penn State, and its production came in bunches, but the 35 sacks were still impressive and it allowed more than 200 rushing yards just twice with one of the games coming against run-first, run-only Army. KSU isn't going to play conservatively, planning on selling out to try to make big stops before plays get started, and it could be extremely disruptive if the Tide line has problems early on.
Why Alabama Might Win: Consider it a major upset if Kent State runs for more than 50 yards. The ground game was supposed to be better last season with the old coaching staff changing up styles and philosophies, but it didn't work with just 15 touchdown runs on the season and a high-yard game of a mere 185. Alabama's defensive front might not be designed to get into the backfield like Kent State's but the run defense could be impenetrable, especially considering top running back Jacquise Terry has a shoulder problem and key reserve Dri Archer has been suspended for academic issues. On the other side of the ball, yes, the Kent State run defense was statistically amazing thanks to all the plays behind the line, but it got rolled over by Army for six scores and blown away by Western Michigan for 259 yards and four touchdowns. The Tide shouldn't have a problem rolling on the ground.
What To Watch Out For: This could be the showcase breakout game for Roosevelt Nix, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year who finished with 43 tackles with a MAC-leading ten sacks, 20 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles. As good as he was, though, teams started keying on him over the second half of his true freshman season and his sack production ground to a halt. However, he's still as quick off the ball as any end the Tide will see this year, and when he gets a chance, he's a terrific closer. As long as there are no lingering problems from a toe injury that limited him in practices, he'll be the one the Bama O line has to focus on for four quarters.
For Alabama, will it be A.J. McCarron at quarterback? Phillip Sims? Both. Neither one has been head-and-shoulders better than the other, and each one is strong enough to lead the ultra-talented offense, but it would be nice if there was one leader to work around. The 6-4, 205-pound McCarron has a big arm and good size, and he should be ready to handle more of the workload physically after adding about 15 pounds of muscle. The Elite 11 Quarterback camper has a great release, a little bit of mobility, and all the tools to be a terrific dropback passer who can spread the ball all over the field. Sims is a phenomenal talent, and the expectations are sky-high considering his skill set. Both players will get their chance.
What Will Happen: Alabama will methodically pound its way to an easy win. The offense will show off just enough explosion early on to put the game away, and then the defense will clamp down forcing Kent State to struggle just to get first downs. The Golden Flash defense will have a few good moments, but not nearly enough of them.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 45 ... Kent State 6
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Alabama -36.5 O/U: 45.5
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