Friday, November 09, 2007

If you don't think tomorrow's a big game....

....try losing it.

Gene Stallings knows as well as anyone that every game poses a threat, especially games you are supposed to win. If Alabama defeats Missisippi State tomorrow in Starkville they will have surpassed last year's win total with three games remaining. They will still have a chance of extending their NCAA record of 10-win seasons. They will be in good position to finish 2nd in the SEC West (which may not sound like much, but it represents great improvement). An last but not least, they will build some much-needed confidence.

If they lose it will be a major step backward in their resurgence. It will show that they have not improved as much as previously thought. It will diminish their momentum and confidence. Some fans will even become a little disillusioned. It will give MSU the upper hand in a series that has been dominated heavily by Alabama forever. It will prove that the Tide made a poor choice in overlooking Sylvester Croom when they hire Mike Shula. It will "become" a bigger game than the loss to L.S.U.

This is not lost on Coach Saban, his staff, and probably not the players. But they will have to fight the tendency of dropping their guard after last week's valiant effort. Stallings was right.

My prediction: Bama wins it in an exciting finish, 27-24. I hope I'm right.


Bulldogs Set For West Showdown With 'Bama

Croom faces 'Bama with need for win Sporting News

MSU gameday factsheet gameday fctsheet


Sharp said...

I wish you'd been right. I was afraid of this game. I knew they would be just as good as us. Maybe even better. I figured they'd lead frequently. But I honestly didn't think we'd never come back once! We haven't scored an offensive touchdown on them in three years! LSU we score at will on (mostly) but MSU we can't even muster a TD on! It was like watching last year's game all over again. Except, somehow, it felt worse.

I know MSU has improved (starting, sadly enough, with the Bama game last year) but I thought we had, too. You wouldn't know it from the last two games. LSU almost handed us the West and we couldn't step up to take it. This week we didn't even show up.

I don't know if Saban can motivate them by screaming at them anymore, either.

Mike Wilhelm said...

I wish I had been right. But I can't say I'm surprised.

First, from an ovrall "talent" perspective, there is not much that separates these two teams right now. We have better receivers and they have better lineman, but basically there is not much difference.

Second, I think I have underestimated the "Croom" factor. This guy is a good coach. I think that he also has the extra motivation of proving to the powers that be that they made a huge mistake in not hiring him 5 years ago. Ever since State beat us last year I am convinced that he would have been a better choice.

Saban addressed the screaming issue on his call-in show last Thursday when a caller criticized him for not screaming enough in the LSU game (like e did at the UT game). His response was that that is not always the most effective thing to do and that part of the team's problem was a lack of confidence.

Having said all of that, if Wilson had not made a poor decision thrown an interception that was run back for a 100 yard touchdown, Bama still would have won, either 15-10 or 12-10.

I knew before the season started that we shouldn't expect much. I thought we would wind up 8-4. That still seems quite possible, if not likely.

I still think we are headed generally in the right direction and that 10 win seasons will return to the Capstone.

Sharp said...

Wilson really did do poorly all day. And once he threw that pick, he was effectively out of the game, refusing to throw it to wide open people for fear some unseen defender might take it. It was pitiful. MSU's D had him more scared than LSU's. I think his confidence was shattered last week when he repeated the FSU fumble in virtually the same circumstances: Trying to cowboy his way out of a sack and not protecting the ball. He was the goat of both games.

And you're right. Sly has made a big statement this year. I'm not sure he would have survived the effects of the probation a great deal better than Shula but he would have had more guts and at least a few more key wins. I've always been a big Sly fan. I just wish he'd lose to his alma mater every time!

Mike Wilhelm said...

You are probably right; Sly may not have survived probation's effects. I would raher have Saban.

Tom said...

Guys, this game was very dissappointing. After JPW's bonehead 2nd qtr int for a TD, yuo could tell MSU had a spring to them we did not. The who thjrd qtr, they blew us off the ball. I was afraid if we weren't controlling the ball on offense that the big RB would wear us down, as little depth as we have on the Dline. That was a huge Shula recruiting fail. Not enough DL. Either someone needs to liogt a fire undfer JP or we shoulf give Mccleroy a chance. Cant allow JP to continue to play like this.

Mike Wilhelm said...

Tom, That's the $64 million question. Why hasn't Saban used McElroy more? I have been wanting to see him play at least a few series every game, and more if he ended up being more effective than Wilson.

This is puzzling, because Saban usually shifts players around all over the place if they don't perform or have a bad attitude, etc.

There must be something going on that we are not aware of....

Sharp said...

Well, since every game since Arkansas has come down to the last minute, I can (kind of) see why!

I heard Saban address this once after the Houston game, when everyone was calling for Wilson's head. He basically said, "Look, I know some folks want me to put another QB in there but it's my job to make sure we've got the best person doing the job. And right now, JP's the best we've got." Not exactly a ringing endorsement for McElroy. I think HE wishes he had another option. I bet he's going to be recruting QBs heavily.

Mike Wilhelm said...

It will be interesting to see what role (if any) Star Jackson has next year as a true freshman.