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Bulldogs won't roll over for Bama
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Rmun Offline
Bench Warmer

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Post: #1
<a href='http://www.al.com/sports/mobileregister/thicks.ssf?/base/sports/1099304154287260.xml' target='_blank'>http://www.al.com/sports/mobileregister/th...04154287260.xml</a>

Bulldogs won't roll over for UA
Monday, November 01, 2004
Things are different now. A lot different.

So you can understand the atmosphere surrounding this week's Alabama-Mississippi State game. What earlier in the season figured to be an almost certain Alabama victory has become anything but. Alabama will be favored to win, but the margin has been trimmed, the anticipation heightened, the importance placed on the win intensified.

There can be little question Saturday's game against Mississippi State will be the most important game thus far in Mike Shula's two seasons at Alabama. The pressure placed on the outcome of the game has increased dramatically.

This isn't just a matchup of SEC West opponents. It's a conference version of Bush vs. Kerry. It has shades of the Hatfields and McCoys. It's like a middleweight bout receiving heavyweight-bout attention.

The undeniable comparison is Shula vs. Sylvester Croom. No matter how often the two coaches say the game isn't about them, there is no way fans, the media and those with only a passing interest in the game will view it that way.

In this, the first head-to-head confrontation of the teams with Shula and Croom in charge, the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide must share the moment -- and the outcome -- with their head coaches.

There are more subplots in this particular matchup between the two teams that have met 88 previous times than a Steve Spurrier playbook has pass plays. Toss in the fact the two programs have faced difficult times recently, both on the field and off, and it adds to the dynamics already in place.

Croom, an All-American player at Alabama for Paul "Bear" Bryant who coached at Alabama and the NFL and was raised in Tuscaloosa, returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first time as an opposing head coach. He'll be facing the man who was hired for the job he wanted.

The Bulldogs head into the game having won two straight league games for the first time since 2000.

The same MSU team that lost to Maine this season beat Florida two weekends ago. The loss cost Ron Zook his job. If MSU beats Alabama Saturday, it is unlikely the same fate will befall Shula, but it will seriously test the patience of the none-too-patient Alabama faithful, creating quite a hot seat heading into the 2005 season.

For Shula, the game holds a great deal of importance aside from the matchup against Croom. Alabama has three games remaining and it needs one more victory to become bowl eligible, a fact that is utmost on the minds of Alabama fans.

Earning a bowl invitation serves as a salve of sorts for Alabama fans. Then again, it would be a special treat for MSU fans. With three wins, the Bulldogs have three games remaining against Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss and thus a chance to become bowl eligible. Suddenly, the idea of such a finish is not so far-fetched.

Things are different now. A lot different.

(Tommy Hicks' column appears Mondays and Fridays in the Mobile Register. Contact him at thicks@mobileregister.com or 251-219-5685.)
11-01-2004 12:46 PM
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msudawgs64 Offline
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Posts: 998
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I Root For: Miss. State
Location: Texas
Post: #2
Do all reporters not read? Yes we can become bowl eligible with a 6-5 record, but no bowl this year. If that were to happen though, the 6-5 record, Croom is SEC Coach of the Year, IMO.
11-01-2004 05:38 PM
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