2007 Alabama Crimson Tide

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Alabama Crimson Tide Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Alabama Crimson Tide

Recap: The Tide ended the year with a convincing Independence Bowl win over Colorado, but at mid-season, it looked as if it could be playing for a whole lot more.  At 6-2, new head coach Nick Saban had quickly raised expectations in Tuscaloosa, guiding ‘Bama into the Top 25 with a rout of Tennessee.  However, a lack of depth and consistency, especially at quarterback, brought the program back to Earth with a thud that was attributed to a four-game losing streak to close out the regular season.              

Offensive Player of the Year: WR D.J. Hall

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Wallace Gilberry

Biggest Surprise: It wasn't so much that Alabama beat No. 20 Tennessee on Oct. 20, but how easily it did it.  The Tide stormed past the unsuspecting Vols, 41-17, getting a career day from unpredictable QB John Parker Wilson and 13 receptions and a pair of touchdowns from Hall.      

Biggest Disappointment: The low point of the Tide's four-game losing streak came in a stunning home loss to Louisiana-Monroe, an also-ran in the Sun Belt Conference.  Making ULM look like LSU, Alabama lost the turnover battle 4-0 and the game 21-14, failing to score a point in the second half.    

Looking Ahead: With Year One of the Saban era in the books, there should be a greater sense of normalcy around the program in 2008.  The coach will have plenty to work with in 2008, including a bunch of returning regulars on both sides of the ball and a recruiting class that's shaping up as one of the best in the country.

- 2007 Alabama Preview
2006 Alabama Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2007 Record: 7-

Sept. 1 West. Carolina W 52-6
Sept. 8 at Vanderbilt W 24-10
Sept. 15 Arkansas W 41-38
Sept. 22 Georgia L 26-23 OT
Sept. 29
Florida St  L 21-14
Oct. 6 Houston W 30-24
Oct. 13 at Ole Miss W 27-24
Oct. 20 Tennessee W 41-17
Nov. 3
LSU L 41-34
Nov. 10 at Mississippi St L 17-12
Nov. 17 UL Monroe L 21-14
Nov. 24 at Auburn L 17-10
Independence Bowl
Dec. 30 Colorado W 30-24

Dec. 30
2007 Independence Bowl
Alabama 30 ... Colorado 24

Alabama was unstoppable early on as QB John Parker Wilson hit 13 of his first 15 passes with a 15-yard touchdown throw to Keith Brown, and 34-yard play to Matt Caddell, and a 31-yard strike to Nikita Stover on the way to a 27-0 lead early in the second quarter. And then the Tide took its foot off the gas as Wilson went ice cold for the rest of the first half allowing the Buffs to get back in the game with two Cody Hawkins touchdown passes. Colorado pulled within ten on a 39-yard Kevin Eberhart field goal, but Alabama got up 13 on Leigh Tiffin's third field goal of the game coming with just under five minutes to play. Colorado wouldn't go away as Hawkins hit Tyson DeVree from 14 yards out for his second score of the game. The Buff D held, but there was only one second left on the clock. Alabama had to sweat out a few laterals on a final play, but got out with the win.
Offensive Player of the Game: Alabama QB John Parker Wilson completed 19 of 32 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and ran four times for 24 yards
Defensive Player of the Game: Alabama S Rashad Johnson made 13 tackles and broke up a pass, and DE Wallace Gilberry made eight tackles, a sack and five tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 19-32, 256 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Glen Coffee, 19-72. Receiving: Matt Caddell, 4-76, 1 TD
Colorado - Passing: Cody Hawkins, 24-39, 322 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Hugh Charles, 14-69. Receiving:
Tyson DeVree, 9-94, 2 TD
Thoughts & Notes ... For about 20 minutes, Alabama QB John Parker Wilson showed why he has the potential to be one of the SEC's best offensive weapons, and then for the last 40 minutes he showed why there might be a big battle for the starting job going into next year. Consistency is his problem, but when he's on, the Bama offense hums. ... Colorado QB Cody Hawkins wasn't always sharp, but he's a gamer, and was tough as nails against a good Tide pass rush, which showed up with decent pressure for one of the few times this year. He did a fantastic of spreading the ball around and taking what the Tide defense gave him. He'll be an interesting player to keep an eye on over the next few years. He's only a freshman. ... This is a young Buff team that's still rebuilding, and while ending the season with a loss is never a positive, it was a good showing after a rough start. ... Nick Saban can breathe a big sigh of relief. Of course he's not an any sort of a hot seat, but after the way the team finished out the regular season with four straight losses, including the gaffe to UL Monroe and the defeat at Auburn, this would've been a disaster had the Tide blown a 27-0 lead. Saban hand the coaching staff had the best of all possible worlds getting the win, but being able to rail on the team all offseason for not putting it away earlier.

Nov. 24
Auburn 17 ... Alabama 10
Auburn struggled to put the game away in a defensive struggle as Ben Tate ran for a three-yard score and Wes Byrum nailed a 37-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead, but it took a one-yard Brandon Cox sneak with just under four minutes to play to pull ahead for good. Bama got a two-yard John Parker Wilson run in the second and a 49-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal with 2:11 to play, but the Tigers were able to run out the clock. Auburn gained 282 yards of total offense to just 225 for Auburn.
Player of the game: Auburn DT Josh Thompson made 12 tackles
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 12-26, 113 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Glen Coffee, 20-60. Receiving: D.J. Hall, 3-29
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 12-22, 117 yds, 1 INT
Brad Lester, 22-98. Receiving:
Rodgeriqus Smith, 3-46
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All Bama fans will see is a sixth straight loss to Auburn, and an 0-for-November to close out a once-promising regular season, but the team battled well even though the offense was struggling in the Iron Bowl. There were chances to turn the game around and the offense couldn't take advantage of them. John Parker Wilson simply didn't move the chains well, but the defense had a nice game with Rolando McClain putting up an All-SEC performance. Remember, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but now Nick Saban will be on high alert next year.

Nov. 17
UL Monroe 21 ... Alabama 14
UL Monroe stunned Alabama with an 11-yard touchdown catch from Mary Humphrey in the third quarter, and then stop after stop as the Tide offense had several chances with no luck. Bama went four and out on its final two drives, lost a fumble on a fourth quarter drive that got to the ULM 19, and got a field goal blocked. ULM got 14 second quarter points on a touchdown runs from Calvin Dawson and Frank Goodin, while Bama scored in the first quarter on a 17-yard Keith Brown catch and in the second quarter on a 12-yard Terry Grant run. The Tide got just four first downs in the second half, but outgained the Warhawks 409 yards to 282 for the game.
Player of the game: UL Monroe S Quintez Secka made five tackles and picked off two passes.
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 21-31, 246 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 21-96, 1 TD. Receiving: Keith Brown, 6-97, 1 TD
UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 14-24, 161 yds, 1 TD
Calvin Dawson, 33-91, 1 TD. Receiving:
Zeek Zacharie, 5-56
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about bottoming out. Either Alabama had big-time problems looking ahead to Auburn, or the offense really is that bad. UL Monroe's offense was held in check, but it was opportunistic and got just enough from the running game to keep things moving. It wasn't like the Bama offense had things working and just couldn't catch a break; it was just awful in the second half and now has to deal with a rested and revved up Auburn D. Uh oh. A four-game losing streak to close out will sour the first tear of the Nick Saban era in a big hurry.

Nov. 10
Mississippi State 17 ... Alabama 12
Up 9-3, Alabama was driving for an apparent late first half score, but Anthony Johnson picked off a John Parker Wilson pass in the end zone and took it 100 yards for a touchdown to change the game. Anthony Dixon ran for a three-yard Bulldog touchdown early in the second half, and MSU had all the points it would need to pull off the upset and become bowl eligible. Alabama only managed four Leigh Tiffin field goals, hitting from 39, 51, 29 and 50 yards out. Alabama only gained 274 yards of total offense, but MSU only came up with 215.
Player of the game: Mississippi State DB Antony Johnson made two tackles, broke up a pass, and and picked off a pass for a 100-yard score.
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 16-34, 121 yards, 2 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 19-75. Receiving: D.J. Hall, 5-46
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 9-21, 100 yds, 1 INT
Anthony Dixon, 26-84, 1 TD. Receiving:
Tony Burks, 2-29
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Mississippi State had two weeks to prepare for an Alabama team that appeared to be still beaten up and battered after the loss to LSU. Even so, the defense played extremely well throughout, and the offense had its chances early on to all but put the game away. Settling for three field goals, and the pick six at the end of the half, meant it was 10-9 MSU instead of a mega-lead for Bama. Now it's time to regroup, blast UL Monroe, and focus on the task at hand, Auburn. To win that game, the O will have to take advantage of every opportunity.

Nov. 3
LSU 41 ... Alabama 34
Down seven late in the fourth quarter, LSU got a 32-yard touchdown catch from Early Doucet on fourth and four. On Alabama's ensuing drive, QB John Parker Wilson was sacked and spun around causing a fumble that eventually led to a one-yard Jacob Hester touchdown run with 1:26 to play. With one final drive, Wilson appeared to have completed a fourth and ten pass, but LSU's Craig Steltz separated Keith Brown from the ball to seal the Tiger win. Penalties and three Matt Flynn interceptions hurt the Tigers throughout, and the Tide took advantage of mistakes with Brown catching touchdown passes from 29 and 14 yards out, and D.J. Hall taking a pass for a 67-yard score. LSU, despite all the problems, stayed in it with Doucet making a ten-yard grab and Demtrius Byrd taking a pass for a 61-yard score, but the Tide appeared to take control late with a 61-yard Javier Arenas punt return for a touchdown. That's when Flynn took over, leading the way to an 84-yard drive in ten plays for the tie. The Tigers came up with seven sacks.
Player of the game: LSU QB Matt Flynn completed 24 of 44 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions, and he ran for 19 yards
Stat Leaders: LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 24-44, 353 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jacob Hester, 16-47, 2 TD. Receiving: Demetrius Byrd, 6-144, 1 TD
Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 14-40, 234 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jonathan Lowe, 10-31. Receiving: Matt Caddell, 3-55

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While the loss to LSU might have been a tough pill to swallow, it goes to show just how close the program is to being really, really special. It took a big fourth down conversion for the Tigers to pull it off, otherwise it would be all about the Tide coming out of this weekend. Now it's time to really focus and avoid the possible letdown at Mississippi State next week. Losing to the possible national champion isn't that big a deal. Losing to MSU, and in three weeks, to Auburn, would be. Getting the running backs on track again will be job one.

Oct. 20
Alabama 41 ... Tennessee 17
Alabama started out the game with an onside kick, leading to the first of four Leigh Tiffin field goals, but got down 14-10 on a three-yard Luke Stocker touchdown catch early in the second quarter. And then the Tide passing game took over, as D.J. Hall caught second quarter scoring passes from 16 and two yards out to start a 31-3 run to close out the game. Tiffin connected from 39, 20, 42 and 44 yards out, and Terry Grant, in for a suspended Glen Coffee, ran for an eight-yard touchdown. Bama outgained Tennessee 510 yards to 362.
Player of the game: Alabama WR D.J. Hall caught 13 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 22-35, 243 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Arian Foster, 13-91, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris Brown, 5-28
Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 32-46, 363 yds, 3 TD
Terry Grant, 26-104, 1 TD. Receiving:
D.J. Hall, 13-185, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about putting it all together at the right time. If Alabama can throw against LSU like it did against Tennessee, and if it can stiffen up against the run like it did this week, it should be able to pull off the upset. Now the Tide can reasonably dream about winning the West, and now all the focus and all the attention can be on the Tigers. The key is keeping John Parker Wilson upright. Tennessee couldn't get any pressure on him, and he threw for 363 yards. Considering the suspensions this week, this was a shocker.

Oct. 13
Alabama 27 ... Ole Miss 24
In a wild game, Alabama scored ten points in the final 7:11 on a three-yard Terry Grant touchdown and a 24-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal, and then had to hold on, as a big Ole Miss pass play in the final seconds was called back after replay ruled that Shay Hodge had stepped out of bounds before making the grab. The Rebels got two Seth Adams touchdown passes, with Dexter McCluster making an eight-yard scoring grab in the first, and Michael Hicks scoring from 17 yards out in the third, while Alabama kept pace in the first half with short scoring runs from Glen Coffee and John Parker Wilson.
Player of the game: In a losing cause, Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy made 13 tackles, three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, and broke up a pass
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 26-40, 265 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 16-62, 1 TD. Receiving: D.J. Hall, 11-140
Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 22-40, 284 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 20-131. Receiving: Dexter McCluster, 7-75, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about getting by on the slimmest of margins, last week, Bama barely hangs on in a win over Houston, and this week, it needs a full sixty minutes and a big comeback to get by Ole Miss. At the end of the day, 5-2 is 5-2, and with Tennessee and LSU coming up next, the team needs all the confidence it can get. However, to have a shot at winning those two games, the offensive line will have to do a better overall job. The running game got decent days from Terry Grant and Glen Coffee, but they didn't get enough room to move. John Parker Wilson was under pressure almost all game long.

Sept. 29
Florida State 21 ... Alabama 14
After a 0-0 defensive slugfest at halftime, the two offenses woke up in the second half with Xavier Lee taking over at quarterback for Florida State and working with DeCody Fagg for touchdown passes from seven and 70 yards. Antone Smith ran for a five-yard score for a 14-0 Seminole lead held late in the game, but the Tide got a seven-yard D.J. Hall touchdown catch with just over five minutes to play, and Keith Brown caught a 17-yard touchdown pass with just over a minute left to pull within seven. The Tide recovered the onside kick, but it was ruled FSU ball since the ball bounced off a Tide player.
Player of the game: Florida State QB Xavier Lee completed 12 of 19 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and ran 11 times for a team-leading 59 yards
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 28-53, 240 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing: Terry Grant, 9-36. Receiving: D.J. Hall, 7-83, 1 TD
Florida State - Passing: Xavier Lee, 12-19, 224 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Xavier Lee, 11-59. Receiving: Greg Carr, 5-107

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... John Parker Wilson might be a good talent, and he might have played relatively well over the last few weeks, but the offense can't revolve around him. Against Florida State, Terry Grant only ran the ball nine times and the ground game was never established. The biggest problem was the secondary, that was put in a bad position on the big 70-yard DeCody Fagg touchdown that ended up sealing the game. Bama guessed run and got burned. Next week's game against Houston is now vital to getting a groove back before jumping back into SEC play.

Sept. 22
Georgia 26 ... Alabama 23 OT
Bama's Leigh Tiffin connected on a 42-yard field goal in overtime, but Matthew Stafford connected with Mikey Henderson on a 25-yard touchdown pass on Georgia's first play in overtime for the win. The Dawgs had a shot to win in regulation, but Brandon Coutu missed a 47-yard field goal as time ran out. Coutu connected on field goals from 45 and 47 yards out, and Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno each ran for short touchdowns, but the Tide was able to tie it up late on a ten-play, 88-yard drive ending with John Parker Wilson's second short rushing touchdown of the game.
Player of the game: Georgia QB Matthew Stafford completed 19 of 35 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
Stat Leaders: Alabama
- Passing: John Parker Wilson, 17-35, 185 yds
Rushing: Terry Grant, 11-80. Receiving: Mike McCoy, 6-47
- Passing: Matthew Stafford, 19-35, 224 yds, 2 TD, 2 iNT
Rushing: Thomas Brown, 20-74. Receiving: Sean Bailey, 5-74
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Give Bama credit for fighting back for a second straight week when things weren't quite going its way, but the secondary struggled in crunch time against Georgia on both the final touchdown pass and the drive at the end of regulation that almost led to the game-winning field goal. To be fair, Lionel Mitchell had Mikey Henderson covered as well as expected on the game-winner, and the D did a fantastic job throughout, but the second half lull that required the come back has to be a big concern. Can the defense keep it together for a full sixty minutes? Remember, this Tide team is supposed to be a work in progress.

Sept. 15
Alabama 41 ... Arkansas 38
John Parker Wilson lofted a four-yard touchdown pass to Matt Caddell with eight seconds to play to avoid a massive collapse. The Tide got out to a 31-10 lead helped by two D.J. Hall touchdown catches and a two-yard Nick Walker scoring grab, but Arkansas came roaring back with 28 straight second half points on two Darren McFadden touchdown runs and two short Casey Dick scoring passes, with a seven-yard play to Peyton Hillis giving the Hogs a 38-31 lead with just over eight minutes to play. Leigh Tiffin nailed a 42-yarder to pull the Tide to within four. The defense came up with a stop, giving the Tide offense one last shot with 2:13 to play and no time outs remaining. Wilson took the offense 73 yards in seven plays for the win.
Player of the game: Alabama QB John Parker Wilson, completed 24 of 45 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 24-45, 327 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 20-96. Receiving: Matt Caddell, 9-91, 1 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 11-23, 145 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darren McFadden, 33-195, 2 TD. Receiving: London Crawford, 3-47
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... John Parker Wilson might not have had the most consistent game against Arkansas, and he might have struggled for stretches when D.J. Hall, who came up with an All-America caliber performance, was out in the second half, but the game-winning final drive might have made him a legend. He hung tough against the Hog pas rush and coolly, calmly delivered strike after strike before putting the ball exactly where it needed to be for the game-winning touchdown. Arkansas is going to run on everyone, so there's no need to get too worried about the collapse of the run defense in the second half. Now the bar has been raised. Beating Georgia next week is a must to officially declare the Tide a true SEC contender.

Sept. 8
Alabama 24 ... Vanderbilt 10
Terry Grant ran for a one-yard score off an early turnover, Leigh Tiffin kicked three field goals, and Alabama coasted. A two-yard Grant scoring run early in the fourth made it 24-3 before Vandy finally got in the end zone on a 15-yard George Smith catch. The Commodores managed just 57 yards rushing, but got a nice day defensively from corner D.J. Moore, who made 13 tackles and broke up two passes.
Player of the game: Alabama RB Terry Grant ran for 173 yards and two scores on 24 carries, while catching three passes for 26 yards.
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 14-28, 150 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 24-173, 2 TDs. Receiving: DJ Hall, 3-67
Vanderbilt - Passing: Mackenzi Adams, 13-23, 108 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Cassen Jackson-Garrison, 6-32. Receiving: Earl Bennett, 4-52
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Nick Saban has wanted to run the ball from the beginning, and while Terry Grant had a nice first day against Western Carolina, that was Western Carolina. Vanderbilt has a veteran defense that's better than it'll probably get credit for, and Grant ran through it without a problem to now give defensive coordinators something major to worry about; However, now John Parker Wilson has to get on track. He wasn't bad against Vandy, but he was a bit off. The defense was excellent at clamping down on the dangerous Earl Bennett. Now the real test comes against the Arkansas running game.

Sept. 1
Alabama 52 ... Western Carolina 6
Alabama outgained Western Carolina 575 yards to 247 and never allowed it to be a game as Terry Grant tore off first quarter touchdown runs from 47 and one yard out and ripped off a 21-yard dash in the second quarter. Western Carolina managed two field goals off long drives, but never threatened to ruin Nick Saban's debut. Glen Coffee, Nick Walker and Jimmy Johns each added one-yard runs for the Tide.
Player of the game ... Alabama RB Terry Grant ran 18 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 13 yards.
Stat Leaders: Western Carolina - Passing: Todd Spitzer, 9-20, 90 yds
Rushing: Mike Malone, 11-38  Receiving: Eddie Cohen, 4-84
Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 17-25, 189 yds
Terry Grant, 18-134, 3 TD  Receiving: Nick Walker, 5-40, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Alabama fans got what they wanted from their opening day from Nick Saban against Western Carolina. The running game, thanks to a big game from Terry Grant, was strong, the defense dominated, and the Tide was never threatened. This was a true preseason warmup before the SEC showdowns against Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Georgia over the next three weeks. To nitpick, there wasn't quite enough of a pass rush and there were a few too many third down conversions allowed, but this was a nice debut.

Sept. 1 – Western Carolina

Sept. 8 – at Vanderbilt
Offense: The offense is loaded with experience with nine starters returning including tackle Brian Stamper, who missed most of last year. The line should be tremendous with five senior starters that know how to pass protect and should be better for the running game. Junior receiver Earl Bennett is one of the nation's most productive playmakers and should finally start to get the attention he deserves. Quarterback Chris Nickson is a dangerous run/pass combination with the potential to grow into a star if he can cut down on his interceptions. The running backs aren't special, but they're experienced.
Defense: Vanderbilt won't have one of the SEC's better defenses, but it'll be far better with seven returning starters and plenty of experience. Most importantly, there are plenty of all-stars to build around. Tackle Theo Horrocks, end Curtis Gatewood, safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton, and linebacker Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs are all capable of making All-SEC teams. The cornerbacks have to shine, a second defensive tackle has to take the heat off Horrocks, and the stars have to be stars for a major overall improvement. Coming up with more turnovers would be nice, but just being better in all areas might be enough to dramatically change the record.

Sept. 15 - Arkansas
Offense: The Gus Malzahn experience quickly got pushed aside, forgetting about his spread offense to better utilize the devastating running attack. Now it'll be up to new offensive coordinator David Lee, who'll try to run a pro style passing attack, but will spend most of his time figuring out how to get the ball into the hands of the magnificent running duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, despite the loss of three starters, will be fantastic for the running game, but suspect in pass protection. Marcus Monk is an elite receiver, but a number two option has to emerge and Casey Dick has to throw the ball effectively and consistently.
Defense: It'll be a good defense, but there are some big-time talent losses in linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson, corner Chris Houston, and linebacker Sam Olajubutu. There's plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in what should be a solid back seven, but everyone has to stay healthy. The line needs tackle depth with Marcus Harrison questionable after tearing his knee this spring. Overall, coordinator Reggie Herring will keep things aggressive with tons of plays in the backfield, along with lots of pressure applied by the defensive backs.

Sept. 22 - Georgia
Offense: The offense was a disaster at times throughout an inconsistent season, but that was to be expected with a true freshman at quarterback, at times, injury problems at running back, and the team's best receiver out. Now, sophomore QB Matthew Stafford appears on the verge of being the superstar he's supposed to be, Thomas Brown is expected to be back at some point to help out the running game, after missing the second half of last year with a knee injury, and Sean Bailey should be the number one target now that he's back from his knee injury. The offense, at least early on, will revolve around big Kregg Lumpkin and the running game, but the line needs to produce as well as it did this spring. A mega-concern going into the off-season, now the front five appears to be a strength.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has his work cut out for him. After losing star corner Paul Oliver to academic ineligibility, the defense is woefully short on sure-thing veteran stars with only three returning starters. There's plenty of potential, speed, and athleticism, but several things have to happen for this to be nearly as good as the number eight defense it was last year. The pass rush should be there in time, but it might take the wheels of outside linebackers Darius Dewberry and Dannell Ellerbe to generate some consistent pressure early on. The secondary needs to unearth more big play options, and a number one corner has to quickly emerge. While undersized, the line is tough and should grow into a rock as the year goes on. This will be a far, far better defense after a few games. By then the coaching staff will have the right combination.

Sept. 29 - Florida State
Offense: After a dreadful two seasons, the offense is under new leadership with new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher coming in to breathe life into the nation's 70th ranked attack. Step one is to find some semblance of a running game, and that starts with talented junior Antone Smith getting more carries. The offensive line, problem one over the last few years, gets a big upgrade with the addition of line coach Rick Trickett from West Virginia. He's immediately pushed everyone to get into better shape and to get a lot tougher. The passing game won't be forgotten about, with Fisher wanting to bomb away down the field to Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg. Now a steady quarterback has to emerge between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee.

Defense: The defense came up with a better year than it got credit for, but it gave up too many points. Now the potential is there for this to be a Florida State defense again with tremendous speed and talent in the secondary and a good enough front seven to come up with a big year. There are question marks. Everette Brown is a good-looking pass rushing end, but he needs help from the other side. The linebacking corps will be special as long as Derek Nicholson and Marcus Ball can quickly return from torn ACLs, otherwise it'll be an undersized group with no depth. As always, there's a slew of NFL talent to work around, highlighted by tackle Andre Fluellen and safety Myron Rolle.

Oct. 6 - Houston

Offense: The graduation of four-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb signals a new era in Houston, but it doesn't mean the Cougars will be inept on offense in 2007.  There's too much explosiveness and veteran leadership for that to happen.  Last year's backup, sophomore Blake Joseph, is expected to get the nod at quarterback.  He's got a huge arm and about as much fear as he does experience.  Surrounding Joseph will be a half-dozen players that earned all-league honors last year, headed by senior running back Anthony Alridge, one of the nation's fastest players.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Alan Weddell's goal is to bring pressure from every angle and invent ways to get as much speed as possible on the field.  With that in mind, he'll be installing some elements of a 4-2-5 package in 2007 to periodically get an athletic rover into the mix.  The personnel is deep and reliable, especially with a front seven that includes dynamic junior end Phillip Hunt and a couple of all-league linebackers in junior Cody Lubojasky and senior Trent Allen.  If senior safety Rocky Schwartz is all the way back from knee surgery and the corners hold up, the pieces are in place for this to be Conference USA's stingiest defense.

Oct. 13 – at Ole Miss
Offense: The offense needed more out of the running game after a woeful 2005, and it got it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming up with a 1,000-yard season as the workhorse for the offense. Now the offense has to figure out how to score after averaging 15.7 points per game (up from a whopping 13.45 per game in 2005). The passing game needs a lot of work, and the hope will be for the young receiving corps to step up and become passable. There will be a quarterback battle into the fall with Brent Schaeffer needing to prove he can move the offense, or he'll be unseated be Seth Adams, who's the more efficient passer. The massive line should be better after years of seasoning.
Defense: This should've been the year when everything started to come together for the Rebel defense, but the loss of all three starting linebackers, along with some major uncertainty in the secondary, will make this an inconsistent year, at least early on. The defensive line will be the strength with end Marcus Tillman on the verge of stardom, and the tackle combination of Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett to be among the best in the league ... if they stay healthy. The secondary lost some of its top safety prospects to the depleted linebacking corps, and the corners have to be far better. Ole Miss only picked off three passes last year. That can't happen again.

Oct. 20 - Tennessee
Offense: The return of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator made a night-and-day difference in the passing game. Now he needs to get the running game to do more, and there needs to be even more from QB Erik Ainge after a nice bounceback year. The receiving corps loses the top three targets and the line loses the two best players, so it'll be up to the trio of Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to carry the running game and the offense. Ainge has to make everyone around him better until new producers at receiver emerge.
Defense: Is there a defense in America that's produced less with so much promise and potential? The Vols have a who's who of top high school prospects that haven't quite panned out, and now that has to change to have any hope of winning the SEC East. Jerod Mayo will move from the outside to the middle and Jonathan Hefney returns at free safety to give the Vols two All-America caliber defenders to build around. Now there needs to be more of a pass rush after coming up with an inexcusable 17 sacks, and the new starting tackles have to quickly emerge. The secondary has to replace three starters, but should be fine in time, while the linebacking corps, if healthy, will be among the SEC's best.

Nov. 3 - LSU
Offense: There's a little bit of nervousness among LSU fans with a major change underway in the offense under new coordinator Gary Crowton. There'll be more option, more quick timing patterns, and quicker reads on the line. Fortunately, the loss of JaMarcus Russell won't hurt as much as it would for almost any other program with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux returning to run the attack. The backfield is loaded with options led by star newcomer Keiland Williams working behind a great line with enough returning experience to dominate. The receiving corps won't be as productive without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet and Brandon LeFall will be a great 1-2 combination.
Defense: The nation's number three defense in each of the last two years might crank things up yet another notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the average to bad teams.

Nov. 10 – at Mississippi State
Offense: It might not be saying much, but this should be the best offense yet under Sylvester Croom. The line gets four starters back, with the fifth spot occupied by Mike Brown, a starter late in the year and the best blocker up front. The receiving corps is easily the deepest area on the offense with good talent and a world of upside, but QB Michael Henig has to stay healthy and get them the ball consistently. Anthony Dixon is an All-SEC caliber running back, and true freshman Robert Elliott should become a fantastic backup. The overall depth is lacking, so injury problems could be disastrous.
Defense: The whole will be better than the parts. The Bulldogs couldn't hold down the better offensive teams last year, and things might not be better right off the bat with tremendous concerns all over the place after losing six key starters. There's plenty of speed and athleticism, but this is a young, inexperienced defense that'll have to force more turnovers and do a much better job of getting to the quarterback. End Titus Brown and defensive back Derek Pegues are All-SEC talents who have to be disruptive forces from day one. The line needs more pass rushers, the linebacking corps has to do more against the pass, and the secondary is relying on green corners so Pegues can play safety.

Nov. 17 - UL Monroe
Offense: The best offense in the Sun Belt gets 11 starters back led by RB Calvin Dawson working behind a terrific line with several all-star candidates. QB Kinsmon Lancaster has a year of starting experience under his belt, and he has all his top targets to get the ball to including LaGregory Sapp and tight end Zeek Zacharie. While the attack will spread it out and allow Lancaster to use his mobility and big-time arm to find the right receiver, it'll be Dawson who carries the workload when things get tight.
Defense: The same problems ULM had last year appear to be the same issues going into this year with a questionable run defense and no proven pass rush, but the strength, the secondary, will be the same even without Kevin Payne and Chaz Williams. The 4-2-5 did its job against mediocre offenses, but got ripped apart by any offense with a pulse. Unless the line is better, the Warhawks will be pounded on by everyone in the Sun Belt.

Nov. 24 – at Auburn
Offense: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem is no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.
Defense: The whole will likely be better than the parts. Auburn's defensive front has the potential to be excellent thanks to the return of star end Quentin Groves for his senior year and with the emergence of Sen'Derrick Marks on the inside. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue, and coming up with sacks had better not be with a secondary that'll be shaky despite getting three starters back. The loss of corner David Irons will hurt. The linebacking corps isn't experienced, but it should be better than last year's group as the season goes on.



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