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Tide can't afford to sleepwalk

By Staff
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
TUSCALOOSA — Watching Saturday night’s 30-14 win over Duke from the press box at Bryant-Denny Stadium, I realized an important fact about this year’s Crimson Tide.
Alabama is a good, but not a great team. They cannot simply expect to just show up on the field and beat their opponent because “We’re Alabama, and you’re not.” Duke is arguably the worst Division I team in the entire country, yet they not only competed with the Tide, but actually held a 14-10 halftime lead. Coming into the Alabama game, the Blue Devils had scored a total of 13 points and had been shutout by Division I-AA Richmond and ACC doormat Virginia. Saturday, they more than doubled that offensive output.
This is a team that has a lot of youth and inexperience, but that doesn’t excuse the abysmal first-half performance Alabama had against an opponent they should have blown out early. If Alabama plays that way against SEC opponents, they won’t be able to come back.
The Tide were lucky they were only playing Duke, or it could have been really ugly. But at the same time, it’s unfair to do too much criticizing of the team. They did win the ball game, after all.
Even so, there’s plenty for the Alabama coaches to harp on this week in practice as the Tide gets ready for a tough matchup with an Ole Miss team that always gives Alabama a game, regardless of the teams’ records.
Here’s the picks for this week:
Hartselle Tigers (5-1, 3-1) at Athens Golden Eagles (5-1, 3-1): Home field for the first round of the playoffs could possibly be on the line here as Hartselle travels north to take on a Golden Eagles team that is explosive on offense — averaging 33 points per game. Both teams have lost to Russellville this season and both teams were snake-bit with five turnovers in those losses. On paper, this looks like a pretty even matchup, but I think Hartselle’s offense has more balance and the defense will make just enough stops to give the Tigers a huge victory…Tigers 31, Golden Eagles 28.
Madison County Tigers (4-2, 3-1) at Priceville Bulldogs (4-2, 2-2): This is arguably the biggest game of the season so far for Priceville. Madison County has a defense that looks great on paper, allowing just seven combined points in its four wins this season. But that number is misleading, as Madison County has yet to face either East Limestone or North Jackson. Priceville has already faced those tough region teams, and the preparation from that tougher schedule will give them the edge in this battle…Bulldogs 35, Tigers 28.
Brewer Patriots (2-4, 1-3) at J.O. Johnson Jaguars (5-1, 3-1): The Jaguars are the surprise of Region 8 so far, but they still have games against Athens and Hartselle left to play. Brewer will play hard, but is simply overmatched athletically by Johnson…Jaguars 38, Patriots 10.
Victory Christian Lions (1-5, 0-4) at Falkville Blue Devils (3-3, 2-2): The Blue Devils are heading in the wrong direction with two straight losses including a 27-3 pasting on the road at Pennington last Friday. It will be nice for Falkville to get back home and face a Victory Christian team that hasn’t quite been able to deal with moving up from Class 1A this season…Blue Devils 31, Lions 14.
Danville Hawks (0-6, 0-4) at New Hope Indians (4-2, 3-1): It has been a tough year for the Hawks, and it’s not getting easier as Danville travels to face a New Hope team that has visions of the playoffs…Indians 28, Hawks 21.
Ole Miss Rebels (2-4, 1-2) at Alabama Crimson Tide (4-2, 1-2): Alabama looked bored against Duke, and it almost cost them. They’ll have to turn it back on in a hurry against the Rebels, but I think they will. Having a healthy Ken Darby will help…Crimson Tide 21, Rebels 17.
Florida Gators (6-0, 4-0) at Auburn Tigers (5-1, 3-1): One team still has dreams of the national championship, while the other is left shaking its head and trying to bounce back from a crushing loss at home. Though I believe Auburn will play better, they just don’t have the defense to stop Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, and the rest of Urban Meyer’s offense…Gators 24, Tigers 17.

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