Role reversal time for the Tigers?
Last week's games were great fun, but this is the week when everything starts to count. This weekend is the opening games for every team's region schedule, and offers each team its first chance to get off to a fast start in its goal of making the playoffs. Which teams will get that first region win? Here's what I think.
Hartselle Tigers (0-1) vs. Decatur Red Raiders (0-1): Hartselle might face an unfamiliar role when it faces the Red Raiders this Friday at Ogle Stadium – the Tigers will probably be favored. Both teams are 0-1, but Hartselle's loss came by a touchdown to Austin while Decatur lost to Huntsville by 20. Add in the fact that Hartselle won last year's meeting (17-7) and the Tigers have every reason to expect to be the favorite. It will be up to coach Godsey and his staff to keep the team's heads on straight, and I think they will have no problem taking care of business…Tigers 24, Red Raiders 13.
Brewer Patriots (1-0) at Russellville Golden Tigers (1-0): Both these teams are coming off hard-fought overtime victories over a nearby Class 4A rival – Brewer defeated Priceville while Russellville knocked off Deshler. Unfortunately, that's where the similarities end between these two teams. The Golden Tigers are a perennial power and should have no trouble with the Patriots. Brewer has enough heart and talent to keep it close for a while, but eventually Russellville will prevail…Golden Tigers 42, Patriots 18.
Priceville Bulldogs (0-1) at East Limestone Indians (1-0): The Indians are coming off a hard-fought 7-6 win over nearby rival Athens. Athens, of course, is not only a Class 5A team but is also the defending Class 5A champion. Yes, Athens lost a lot from last season but you still have to be impressed with East Limestone's win. The Bulldogs played the Indians quite well in 2006, staying tied late in the fourth quarter before East Limestone pulled away with two late touchdowns for a 35-21 victory. I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar kind of game this year…Indians 35, Bulldogs 21.
Danville Hawks (0-1) at Holly Pond Broncos (0-1): The Hawks have yet to make it on the scoreboard in the 2007 season, falling to Falkville 21-0 last Thursday. Holly Pond, meanwhile, is looking for a first win for its new head coach Steve Miller, a Danville alum. Last year, the Hawks barely fell to the Broncos by the score of 14-13…Broncos 28, Hawks 14.
Falkville Blue Devils (1-0) at Westbrook Christian Warriors (0-1): You can be certain last season's 31-25 home loss to the Warriors will be in the back of the Falkville players' minds on the long bus trip to Rainbow City. The Blue Devils trailed 31-13 late before mounting a fierce comeback that finished short when the clock expired with the ball on the Westbrook 25. Falkville will try to use its talented skill players to take an early lead and not have to worry about a comeback this time…Blue Devils 24, Warriors 17.
Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0) at Vanderbilt Commodores (1-0): This is probably the first real game of the Nick Saban era. Previous Alabama coaches had their troubles with the spunky Commodores, and if Saban's team can win easily it might give hope to the idea that this Tide team can be a force in the SEC right now. The Commodores' offense, led by Alabama natives Chris Nickson at quarterback and Earl Bennett at receiver, has the capability of putting points on the board but can the Commodores stop Alabama's own offensive standouts? I don't think so…Crimson Tide 31, Commodores 20.
South Florida Bulls (1-0) at Auburn Tigers (1-0): Auburn's offense was far from impressive in its season-opening win against Kansas State, but the Tigers' defense came up big. They'll need that defense against a USF team that has quietly built a nice program in the Big East – last season the Bulls beat then-undefeated West Virginia on the road. That's pretty good for a program that has only been in existence since 1997 (a season that included losses to The Citadel, Elon and Drake). Auburn could have its hands full…Tigers 24, Bulls 20.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-1) at Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0): After Saturday's debacle against Georgia Tech, I'd have to be crazy to pick the Irish to beat a good Penn State team at sold-out Beaver Stadium, right? Get the straitjacket ready. There are three reasons I think the Irish can pull off the upset. First, Notre Dame is battle tested already while Penn State played a much easier warm-up game against Florida International. Secondly, while Penn State has a good defense it's not as bad a matchup for the Irish as Georgia Tech's blitz-happy scheme. Thirdly, this will be the first game of the Jimmy Clausen era at Notre Dame. That offensive line should look infinitely better with a quarterback who is capable of making quick decisions and sharp passes…Fighting Irish 27, Nittany Lions 24.