Alabama Crimson Tide: Cam Cameron

SEC lunchtime links

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
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Happy Monday to you all. Hope everyone had a great weekend. Let's take a look at some of the interesting stories from around the league in today's edition of the lunch links:

SEC lunchtime links

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
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We're slowly pushing toward the weekend. Here are some links from around the SEC to get you through the afternoon.

LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Zach Mettenberger are working to get the quarterback back to the form he displayed early in the season.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron has enjoyed some memorable moments against LSU.

Alabama coach Nick Saban's agent told Texas regents of the “special pressure” he feels in coaching the Crimson Tide.

Time for toughness as Alabama and LSU prepare to meet.

Maty Mauk says he's ready to hand the reins of Missouri's offense back to James Franklin.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn promises no more “questionable issues” in wake of the controversy over a player facing accusations that he faked an injury against Arkansas.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier plans to stay put with a number of starters returning to this young team in 2014.

What is Johnny Manziel worth to Texas A&M football? Aggie officials backtrack following an article where they minimized his impact.

Once the team's strength which Florida relied upon to keep it in games, its defense is getting off to progressively slower starts lately.

Saturday's game against Appalachian State will be Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray's 50th career start.

Mississippi State is in the middle of a daunting stretch of the schedule where it must play three ranked teams in a row.

Ole Miss can clinch bowl eligibility for the second straight season by beating Arkansas on Saturday.

Kentucky's secondary will have its hands full against Missouri's big receivers.

Tennessee's offensive line impresses Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.

Vanderbilt opened its football indoor practice facility on Tuesday.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Ed Stinson's mammoth shoulders shrink, relaxing from the form that only half an hour earlier flexed to crash and beat up on 300-pound blockers for a full 60 minutes. Alabama's senior defensive end looked tired in the eyes after his team beat rival Tennessee 45-10 on Saturday, his dark brown pupils soft and eager for rest. After three straight SEC contests and seven consecutive game weeks, he and his teammates were eager for some time off.

"I've been waiting for it," he said, flashing a slight grin. An ear-to-ear smile would have required too much energy. "I'm one of the guys [who] needs to be healed."

[+] EnlargeChristion Jones, Amari Cooper
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAfter playing for seven straight weeks, No. 1 Alabama gets the weekend off to recover and heal.
The nature of his injuries are unknown, a buildup of bumps and bruises on his 6-foot-4, 292-pound frame. Nose guard Brandon Ivory, no lightweight at more than 300 pounds, is out in what coach Nick Saban describes as a "medical issue." H-back/running back Jalston Fowler can't make contact in practice because of a concussion. Cornerback Deion Belue is dealing with a nagging toe injury and the starter opposite him, Bradley Sylve, isn't yet 100 percent either.

And that's just the injuries we know of.

The bye week comes at the perfect time for top-ranked Alabama. The scoring margin the past six weeks, 246-26, has made it look easy. But the games have demanded their own pound of flesh, the toll evidenced in every wince and limp.

"In the SEC you bang hard every week, so you need time to rest up," Belue explained to reporters on Saturday night. "Then we have LSU, and they're going to come in and bang some more."

Ah, the matter of LSU. The 13th-ranked Tigers represent the biggest challenge to Alabama's undefeated season. Les Miles' squad always gives Alabama a hard time, and the last time his team came to Tuscaloosa (2011), it won. With a much improved offense thanks to new coordinator Cam Cameron, get ready for calls of an upset. Zach Mettenberger has progressed quickly into an NFL quarterback and with two of the best receivers in the SEC -- Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. -- to throw the ball to, they''ll be licking their chops to get at Alabama's secondary, which doesn't have much quality depth.

But in Alabama's camp, that's not the focus yet. At least not externally.

"I'm not thinking about that right now," quarterback AJ McCarron said Saturday in his usual no-nonsense manner, mimicking his head coach. "We've got a 24-hour rule and then a week off so I'm not really thinking about who we got next."

Said Saban: "We've got some big challenges and some stiff competition against some teams coming up here. This bye week comes at a pretty good time for us. We have a lot of guys banged up. We could use the rest, and we can use the time to try to help some of our players improve. So that's going to be our focus this week."

Notice the utter avoidance of LSU? The game was on the lips of every fan around Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night, but it was nowhere to be found in Saban's postgame comments. When he spoke to the media again on Tuesday, he got three-quarters of the way through before LSU entered his consciousness, and even then it was to relive the 2011 game, not to focus on the game ahead of him.

"Just because we don't have a game doesn't mean you change anything about how you think and what we need to do to get better as a team," Saban said.

You're not going to catch this Alabama team looking ahead to LSU. Not even when LSU is the next team on the schedule. In their mind, this week is about recovery and a return to the basics. Saban said they'll spend an extra day on LSU preparation, but he doesn't want to throw the team off its usual schedule or burn them out too quickly, showing them the same plays and schemes too many times over the next two weeks.

Trey DePriest, Alabama's starting inside linebacker, said he didn't think they'd spend any time on LSU this week. Maybe it was a bit of gamesmanship, but he reiterated it, saying they'd go back to "camp rules." Stinson backed him up, adding that there would be "no talk at all" of LSU.

"It's a positive, and it's definitely going to help us out," said veteran defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, opening up where his teammates hadn't. "LSU's a tough team, and that kind of gives us an advantage to study the opponents more."

Just don't expect to hear much beyond that. Mettenberger and the LSU offense haven't been brought up. Neither has LSU's defense. Right now it's a matter of staying focused on the task at hand, even if that task doesn't involve another football team.

Really, it's Saban's way. When asked how he'd celebrate his birthday this week, he responded bluntly, "Whatever Miss Terry has planned is what I'll be doing."

If he could, he'd blow out his candles in the film room watching practice tape.

His is the kind of singular focus, and that makes Alabama unique. The build up to big games is the same as smaller ones. In fact, you often see a more fired up coaching staff for cupcakes like Georgia State than for "Game of the Century" type contests with LSU. They have to light a fire under their players for some games, but that won't be the case for next Saturday's home game against LSU. The battle lines were drawn well before the start of the season.

So why emphasize the matchups and specifics of the game now? With so many players hurt, why not take the week to rest? Inside the walls of Alabama's football offices, it might be different, but outwardly players aren't anxious for what's next.

"Our bodies need time to get ready for another physical game," said veteran wideout Kevin Norwood. "That's what we're going to do."

SEC lunchtime links

September, 16, 2013
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What a wild weekend of football it was. But now, we turn the page to Week 4 of the college football season and look forward to a new slate of games in the SEC.

It's early, but has SEC lost a few steps?

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
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By the time the sun sets Saturday on the East Coast, another one of the preseason heavyweights in the SEC will be sporting a loss.

And in unison, the rest of the college football world will let out a collective cheer.

One of the ways to look at the Alabama-Texas A&M showdown is that the winner will be in primo position to make a run at the national championship.

But there’s another subplot to the game in College Station: The loser will be the fourth SEC team ranked in the top 10 of the preseason polls to lose -- only three weeks into the season.

After watching Florida fall last week at Miami and Georgia stumble to open the season at Clemson, the anybody-but-the-SEC crowd is starting to rev its engines and ponder the possibilities.

Maybe the big, bad SEC is showing a few cracks in its foundation, and just maybe this is the year that a BCS National Championship -- the last one, as fate would have it -- is played without an SEC team as a participant.

There are still so many ways this season could go, but the feeling coming in was that the surest way for the SEC’s seven-year national championship streak to end was for the league to beat up on itself.

Stay tuned on that front, but it certainly looks like everybody in the SEC has a few warts.

Even Alabama was average at best offensively in its season-opening 35-10 win over Virginia Tech. We’ll find out a lot more about the Crimson Tide this weekend, but part of their issues offensively in the opener can be attributed to how physical Virginia Tech’s front seven was on defense.

The Hokies flat got after Alabama, and unlike past years when the Tide were playing with an NFL-esque offensive line, they didn’t respond particularly well.

Meanwhile, the rest of the college football world is starting to smell blood, SEC blood.

Is that premature?

[+] EnlargeAlabama/Texas A&M
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsSaturday's showdown between Alabama and Texas A&M should provide some answers about the path to the national championship.
Sure it is, but it’s going to be fascinating to see how it all plays out, because more than ever, it’s the SEC versus the rest of college football.

Comparing scores this early in the season is meaningless, but Clemson did beat Georgia, which beat South Carolina.

After Miami took down Florida last week, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney chortled, “How about that ACC? Spunky little old league.”

The best part was Swinney flashing the “U” sign as he walked out of the interview room following Clemson’s 52-13 pasting of South Carolina State.

The gamesmanship makes it a lot more fun, and Clemson is hardly the only team that’s a legitimate threat to the SEC this season.

At first glance, Oregon appears to be faster and more explosive than ever, and nobody’s sleeping on Stanford. Louisville could easily go unbeaten when you look at the Cardinals’ schedule, and it’s not far-fetched to think that an unbeaten team could come out of the Big Ten this season either.

Ultimately, it’s probably going to come down to how much damage is doled out within the SEC’s own parameters.

What’s more, is there another Texas A&M lurking similar to a year ago?

The Aggies went from unranked to taking down Alabama in Tuscaloosa last November and were playing as well as anybody in the country by season’s end.

LSU was sort of the forgotten team in the league to begin this season after losing so many star defensive players, but the Tigers’ passing game has taken flight under first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and it’s hard to see an appreciable drop-off on defense to this point.

Again, though, LSU has to play at Georgia in three weeks and at Alabama in November.

One of the constants in the SEC’s national championship run has been suffocating defense. It’s not a coincidence that six of the seven national champions during the streak have finished in the top 10 nationally in total defense.

The early returns suggest that some of the offenses are perhaps catching up with the defenses in this league. But, then, maybe some of the defenses this season simply aren’t what we’ve grown accustomed to in the SEC.

South Carolina was torched for 536 yards last week in its loss to Georgia, which has given up 68 points in its first two games, albeit to a pair of top 10 teams.

Texas A&M has been playing with a patchwork unit defensively thanks to suspensions, but the Aggies have given up 59 points in their first two games -- to Rice and Sam Houston State.

Florida is a load on defense, but the Gators haven’t shown nearly enough offensively to think that they could be a national championship contender.

LSU’s toughest tests are yet to come defensively, which leads us back to the Crimson Tide.

They’ve won national championships each of the past two seasons despite losing games at home in November.

One of the things that make Saturday’s game so pivotal for both Alabama and Texas A&M is that neither team has a tough draw in the East this season. They both avoid Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

So the path to the national championship gala will clear up considerably for the winner Saturday.

Even so, it’s a race after a few laps around the track that has everybody outside the SEC’s footprint believing, anticipating and hoping that the league everybody has been chasing for the better part of the past decade may finally be losing a few steps.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 2

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
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Here are five things we learned on another crazy Saturday in the SEC:

East should be wild: Just as we all expected, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina each have a loss after all of two weeks. Georgia jumped into the division lead with its 41-30 win against South Carolina on Saturday, but the division's power trio all figure to hang around throughout the fall. They all have demonstrated glaring weaknesses that make a second loss possible for each of them -- and even if Georgia has the lead now, it also faces perhaps the most difficult league schedule of the three expected front-runners. It should be yet another memorable race in the East.

Pay attention, Tide: Johnny Manziel certainly looked like a Heisman Trophy contender in passing for 403 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another in Texas A&M's 65-28 thrashing of FCS squad Sam Houston State. But the Aggies' porous defense has to be a major concern for Kevin Sumlin, with Alabama's stable of running backs on tap next week. Sam Houston's Timothy Flanders rushed for 170 yards and scored three touchdowns against A&M's depleted defense. Several Aggies defenders should be back from suspensions next week against Alabama, which should help. But after allowing 450 yards per game in the first two games, the Aggies will have to get a lot better in a week's time.

[+] EnlargeShayon Green, Jeff Driskel
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesJeff Driskel and the Gators offense struggled in a 21-16 loss to Miami on Saturday.
More of the same at Florida: Jeff Driskel and Florida's offense still appear to be the middling bunch they were in 2012. In Saturday's 21-16 loss at Miami, Driskel passed for a career-high 291 yards, but the Gators turned it over four times inside the Miami 20 in another bumbling performance. Florida's defense surrendered just 212 yards and 10 first downs, but the offense still hasn't found consistent playmakers, and that was clearly evident Saturday.

Mettenberger for Heisman: It looks like the offseason talk about LSU making better use of Zach Mettenberger's powerful right arm under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was no joke. Mettenberger set a new school record with five touchdown passes in Saturday's 56-17 win against UAB. After passing for 282 yards against UAB -- with Odell Beckham Jr. grabbing five balls for 136 yards and three scores -- and 251 last week against TCU, Mettenberger has eclipsed the 250-yard mark in both of the first two games. He did so only three times last season.

Welcome back: Through two weeks, seven SEC programs are off to a 2-0 start. Included in that bunch are four of the five teams that failed to reach a bowl game last season: Auburn, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas. Enjoy it while it lasts, though, guys. Tennessee faces Oregon and Florida in the next two games. Auburn gets Mississippi State and LSU in the next two weeks. Arkansas draws Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama in a four-week stretch before long. And Missouri faces Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina in October alone. In other words, the road's going to get bumpy soon once they jump into conference play, and they can't feast on the Samfords, Arkansas States and Toledos of the college football world.

SEC lunchtime links

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
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Most of the SEC coaches spoke to the media on Tuesday. Read all about what's going on around the league this week.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
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Ready or not, it's here. The start of the college football season is upon us with all of its promise and potential.

Throughout the SEC, there's a sense of new beginnings, of hope, of the fresh start so many programs have been longing for. Gus Malzahn will lead Auburn for the first time as its head coach, Bret Bielema and Butch Jones will coach their first games in the SEC at Arkansas and Tennessee, respectively, and Mark Stoops will take the first steps in rebuilding a Kentucky program that's struggled historically.

Everyone is on an even keel today, but that all changes when the lines are painted and the football is teed up for the start of the season. So as you get ready for all that Week 1 has to offer, keep an eye on these few things:

1. Return of the champs: Alabama has all the ingredients to make another run at a national title. AJ McCarron and T.J. Yeldon are Heisman Trophy contenders, and the defense is once again littered with potential All-Americans. With a league-best 16 players chosen to the Coaches' Preseason All-SEC Team, there's no doubting the talent assembled in Tuscaloosa, Ala. But can Nick Saban fend off complacency again and help his team meet its full potential? That remains to be seen, though a season opener against Virginia Tech is a good place to start. The Hokies are a three-touchdown underdog that Alabama could easily overlook with a bye week and Texas A&M to follow. Will overconfidence get the best of the Tide? If UA comes out with anything less than 100 percent effort, that could signal trouble for the road ahead.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsAaron Murray will aim to lead Georgia past Clemson in the Bulldogs' opener.
2. An early title test for Georgia: Mark Richt's Bulldogs won't get a chance to test the waters before jumping in headlong this season, as Clemson awaits in Game 1. Never mind letting Aaron Murray and his talented tandem of tailbacks get their bearings, and never mind allowing the revamped defense to find its stride; Georgia will encounter its first obstacle on the road to the national championship right away. Tajh Boyd and the Tigers offense are prolific -- and dangerous -- averaging 512 yards per game a season ago, which was good enough for ninth in the country. And while there's no doubting Georgia's ability on offense, there are some serious questions on the other side of the ball. After all, 10 of the 22 players listed on Georgia's two-deep depth chart have never played a down of FBS football.

3. Can LSU's offense turn the corner?: There have been glimpses of potential, but LSU's offense has never reached its full potential under Les Miles. The defense has been great, sure, but when it's come to scoring points, the Tigers left something to be desired. Not having the right quarterback had something to do with that, though, but this season, that excuse and all others won't be enough as Zach Mettenberger enters his senior season under center and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron takes control. LSU will still line up and play power football, which it has always done well. The passing game, though, could use some spark, and Miles hopes Cameron is the guy to light that fire, starting with the season opener against TCU. Just because the Horned Frogs come from the defensively challenged Big 12 doesn't mean coach Gary Patterson's squad can't play ball. TCU has long been SEC-like on defense with playmakers like defensive lineman Devonte Fields and cornerback Jason Verrett. They'll get after Mettenberger and give LSU fans an early look at what the Tigers' offense is truly capable of.

4. Florida seeking playmakers: The Gators' woes on offense have been well documented. After all, Florida hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver in almost a decade. Since Tim Tebow left, there hasn't been a lot of chomp to the Gators' bite. For all of Jeff Driskel's faults as a young quarterback, it was hard to figure out exactly who he was supposed to get the football to last season. There was no Percy Harvin to be found. While there doesn't appear to be an All-American brewing at wide receiver now, this season should be better. Losing Matt Jones for the season opener hurts, but it should give other players a chance to step up and make plays. With a date with in-state rival Miami looming, coming out with a bang against Toledo could serve as the springboard to bigger and better things in 2013.

5. Which Johnny Football will it be?: It's only Rice, but Johnny Manziel needs to come out and set the tone right away for what kind of season he hopes to have. The Aggies’ success depends on it. After an offseason filled with turmoil, it's time for all of College Station to turn the page. We've heard time and time again that it will get better when Manziel can put aside the distractions and focus solely on football. Now, he has to prove it. If he really is tired of the college life and ready to move on to the NFL, he'll have to show he's capable of handling the spotlight and performing on the football field. Veterans like Luke Luke Joeckel, Ryan Swope and Damontre Moore are gone. For better or worse, it's Manziel's team, and the pressure is on him now more than ever.

SEC's lunchtime links

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
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Game week has arrived. No more waiting for the action because it all starts this week. Here are some links from around the SEC to whet your football appetite as game day nears:

SEC lunchtime links

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
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Here's a few stories from around the SEC to get you through your lunch hour.
  • Auburn fans can still celebrate victories at Toomer's Corner now that the city has installed a temporary wire structure. The city removed the poisoned oak trees in April.
  • What do SEC coaches think of the other teams in the conference? Athlon asked them anonymously, and some of their answers will surprise you.
  • Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon has no idea how fast he is, but that's okay because he'd rather run somebody over than try and out-run them.
  • Auburn has a tough, physical runner of its own: Cameron Artis-Payne, a junior college transfer who ran for 117 yards in the spring game.
  • LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is encouraged by the bond he has developed with new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who has previously worked with Joe Flacco and Drew Brees.
  • Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith says he considered surgery for his injured shoulder in the spring but went with constant rehab and conditioning instead.
  • Tennessee receivers coach Zach Azzanni says he has no problem playing freshmen over upperclassmen if they're the best option.
  • South Carolina tight ends Rory Anderson and Jerell Adams will have plenty of opportunities to make plays this season.
  • Having a good season isn't good enough for Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy.
  • The Associated Press' Jim Litzke wonders if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is in over his head.
  • Georgia coach Mark Richt has no intentions of opening practice.
  • It takes a while to list all the positions that Florida's Trey Burton plays. He's happy to do it.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- SEC Media Days was a lot of talk and not a lot of action. That's the way it always is. But in the midst of all the hot air circulating through the Wnyfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., last week, there was a sense of momentum, a feel for the way each program was headed.

For Alabama, the direction is clear. It's championship or bust again for the Crimson Tide. For the rest of the SEC West, it's a matter of playing catch-up and knocking coach Nick Saban's squad off the top of the mountain.

With that in mind, TideNation set out to rank Alabama's divisional competition, including a look at what lies ahead for each program.

Early preview: Balance key to UA, LSU

July, 18, 2013
7/18/13
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Editor's note: This week, GeauxTigerNation and TideNation will examine all aspects of the LSU-Alabama rivalry during the Nick Saban-Les Miles era. Today we turn to this season's game and what each team must do to come out victorious.

It's never too early to look forward to a good old-fashioned rivalry game. So with more than 100 days remaining between now and the Alabama-LSU regular-season matchup in Tuscaloosa, Ala., we asked TideNation writer Alex Scarborough and GeauxTigerNation writer Gary Laney to break down three keys for each school to come out on top.

A lot can happen between now and Nov. 9, but its safe to say the plans laid out by each writer will be as true today as they are four months from now when Nick Saban and Les Miles meet at midfield in Bryant-Denny Stadium to renew a rivalry that's been boiling intensely in recent years.

How LSU wins in 2013

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
Derick E. HingleAlabama's defense has to find a way to put pressure on Zach Mettenberger in its matchup with LSU on Nov. 9.
1. Offensive balance: On a spreadsheet, LSU did not have a team that should have been able to beat Alabama in 2012. The Tigers were too one-dimensional on offense without a consistent passing game and, if the 2011 meetings showed anything, Nick Saban-coached teams will eat one-dimensional offenses for lunch. But for one night in Tiger Stadium, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was brilliant, throwing for a season's-best 298 yards to bring balance to the usual productive running game, led by Jeremy Hill, and the Tigers nearly pulled off an upset, losing 21-17. This year, Mettenberger will have to be as good -- probably better -- and LSU will need its usual running threat, whether it's Hill or somebody elese. Of course, that is the whole reason why LSU has a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron.

2. Pressure points: Alabama has some work to do on its offensive line, and LSU has some holes to fill on its defensive line. This should not be a huge issue for the Tigers' run defense -- defensive coordinator John Chavis is a master of scheming extra men in the box to negate the run -- but if a now well-seasoned A.J. McCarron has time to sit back and go through his progressions in the passing game, even "DBU" won't be able to cover. Don't believe it? Look at the winning drive last season. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson should be a pass-rushing force this season. But if the Tigers enter the LSU game still waiting for one of the young ends to emerge as a consistent sack threat, they could be in for a world of hurt.

3. Kicking it around: The last time the Tigers beat Alabama, Drew Alleman gave LSU all of its points with three field goals. Under Les Miles, LSU always seems to enjoy a special teams edge. That's especially important against this team because it will take a mighty effort to just be close to the Tide, based on what they have coming back with offensive skill players and defensive talent. That might be a problem for LSU, which is breaking in a new starting punter in Jamie Keehn and is entering August camp still searching for Alleman's replacement at kicker.

How Alabama wins in 2013

1. Pressure Mettenberger: It's odd that the silver lining in Mettenberger's otherwise lackluster 2012 campaign was a defeat, but such was the case for the rising senior quarterback who threw for a season-high 298 yards against Alabama in early November. Give him credit for making all the throws, but a fair share of the blame lies with the Tide defense, which had three sacks and no quarterback hurries in Baton Rouge. Allowing a big, strong-armed quarterback such as Mettenberger to set his feet like that was just asking for trouble. Combined with a season-low two pass breakups, it's a wonder he didn't throw for more than one touchdown. For Alabama to survive LSU in Tuscaloosa this season, the defense can't afford Mettenberger another career-making day where he has the time to sit back and pick the secondary apart.

2. Stay with the running game: There were times last season when the Alabama offense got too far ahead of its skis and lost balance -- twice to be exact. The LSU game was the first such instance when offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier called more passes than runs, and the lack of continuity showed in the second half, when McCarron and Co. went three-and-out on four of six drives. Alabama, of course, survived that bit of unbalance, but the next week it did not as the Tide threw the ball more than it ran and lost in heartbreaking fashion to Texas A&M. While the temptation to pass will be even greater with McCarron a year wiser and with more weapons at wide receiver, the fact remains that the Alabama offense is based on running the football and controlling the line of scrimmage. Handing the ball off to T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the stable of running backs might not be sexy, but it gets the job done.

3. Stay special: A bad kicking game doomed Alabama the last time LSU came to Tuscaloosa as the Tide missed four-of-six field goal attempts in its only loss of the 2011 season. And while Cade Foster appears to have gotten over the hiccup of that game, he comes into the 2013 season with even greater expectations now that short-range specialist Jeremy Shelley is gone. Making the most of every opportunity will be important for whoever handles field goals for the Tide this go-around, whether it's Foster or redshirt freshman Adam Griffith, who could take over for Shelley as the short- to intermediate-range kicker. Getting the ball through the uprights won't be the only thing that's important, though. The Tide must do well in coverage and take care of the ball in the return game, as five of the past seven meetings between the schools have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Tide schedule preview: LSU 

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
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Editor's note: The season is nearly upon us and TideNation is taking steps to get you ready for every one of Alabama's regular season opponents. Every Tuesday and Thursday we'll go through each week of the Crimson Tide's schedule, starting with the season-opener against Virginia Tech and closing with the finale against Auburn.


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It’s Rankings Week at TideNation. Every day we’ll rank Alabama's opponents in some form or fashion. Today we turn to the Football Bowl Subdivision teams on the Tide’s schedule. Tomorrow we’ll rank the offensive players Alabama will face.

Ranking the schedule

1. Texas A&M (Sept. 14 in College Station, Texas): It may not be the Alabama-LSU Game of the Century Trilogy, but the Week 2 date with Texas A&M will be the Tide's Game of the Year in 2013. Why? If for nothing other than revenge. Johnny Manziel and the Aggies had the ball bounce their way in a thrilling finish last season, and Alabama will be eager to prove the loss a fluke. Kevin Sumlin's squad might take a step back after losing its franchise tackle (Luke Joeckel) and best defensive player (Damontre Moore), but don't doubt the talent assembled in College Station. Alabama might have been favored at home, but on the road it's anyone's guess.

2. LSU (Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.): If these two teams are undefeated at this point in the season, we could be talking about extending the Trilogy of classics between SEC rivals. But having lost so much on both sides of the ball, it's difficult to imagine the Tigers making it through the likes of Georgia and Florida without a loss. Les Miles is a magician, but even his tricks have their limits. Replacing seven starters on defense won't be as easy task, and the offense will need time to adjust under new coordinator Cam Cameron.

3. Virginia Tech (Aug. 31 in Atlanta): If the Hokies are going to challenge in the opener, it will be have to be because of Logan Thomas. The senior quarterback turned down the NFL, and after watching him in the Hokies' spring game, his stock doesn't look so solid. He threw three interceptions against what will be a good but probably not spectacular defense. Thomas is one of four returning starters on an offense under the direction of coordinator Scott Loeffler, who struggled mightily at Auburn last season.

4. Ole Miss (Sept. 28 in Tuscaloosa): Give Hugh Freeze credit. What the Rebels did holding Alabama to its lowest offensive production of the season in 2012 was impressive. And given what Freeze's offense can do with Bo Wallace at quarterback pushing the tempo, it's easy to see Ole Miss giving the Tide fits again. The flow of talent coming into Oxford, Miss., is starting to level the playing field.

5. Mississippi State (Nov. 16 in Starkville, Miss.): Unlike last season, we'll know just how good the Bulldogs are before they face Alabama. (See dates with LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M). And maybe some toughening up is exactly what they'll need to get ready for a challenge. But the loss of their top two cornerbacks (Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay) and the No. 1 receiver (Chad Bumphis) might be too much to overcome. The good news is Tyler Russell is back under center and LaDarius Perkins returns at tailback, and they'll be helped by an offensive line with four returning starters.

6. Arkansas (Oct. 19 in Tuscaloosa): Bret Bielema might be regretting his comments about Alabama when he travels to Tuscaloosa to face Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. It's probably not wise to poke the bear in your first season, even if you're supposed to be doing it behind closed doors to like-minded fans.On the field, Bielema and his new staff have their hands full, replacing 11 starters.

7. Auburn (Nov. 30 in Auburn, Ala.): It's the Iron Bowl, which means anything can happen. And it will be on Auburn's home turf, which means a Super Bowl atmosphere for a program that will likely have nothing to lose. Gus Malzahn should fare better than his predecessor after cleaning house, but the cupboard was left pretty bare. Cam Newton is on campus, but only for classes. Making him eligible might be the only thing that could save what will be a rocky season for Auburn.

8. Tennessee (Oct. 26 in Tuscaloosa): Butch Jones has re-energized the program, but much like Malzahn at Auburn, he wasn't left with much to work with. Tyler Bray is gone, as is core of the offense with Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Mychal Rivera out the door as well. The defense isn't in much better shape, as it returns a secondary that finished 111th in pass defense. The good news is the Vols should have one of the best offensive lines in all of college football. It's a start.

9. Kentucky (Oct. 12 in Lexington, Ky.): Mike Stoops is building from the ground up in Lexington, and that hard work is showing on the recruiting trail. But it will take time before it shows up on the football field, where it counts. Until the Wildcats start bringing in SEC talent on a consistent basis, they won't compete in big games like Alabama. It will be a while before Kentucky can make the climb from last in scoring offense and next to last in scoring defense in the league.

10. Colorado State (Sept. 21 in Tuscaloosa): Jim McElwain has familiarity with Alabama. Give him that much. He'll try to prepare his players for what to expect in Tuscaloosa, but nothing he can say will truly get his team ready for the dramatic change of scenery. Colorado's four wins last season came against dreadful competition (Colorado, Hawaii, UNLV, Mexico), but the silver lining is McElwain returns a whopping 19 starters.

SEC spring preview: Western Division

February, 26, 2013
2/26/13
3:05
PM ET
Here are a few storylines to watch this spring in the Western Division. Edward took a look at the Eastern Division on Monday.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Start date: March 16

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. Battling complacency: Alabama is gearing up for yet another title defense. Will complacency finally rear its ugly head? Not if Nick Saban has anything to do with it. The head coach will no doubt remind players of the targets on their backs and what little they've accomplished as presently constituted.
  2. Opening up the passing game: The return of AJ McCarron, coupled with a talented, deep crop of receivers, could mean a more wide-open passing game in Tuscaloosa. If true freshman tight end O.J. Howard develops as some expect, the offense could become even more dynamic.
  3. Offensive line makeover: Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker are gone. And with them the best offensive line in college football has vanished. Veterans Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen return, but few experienced players are waiting in the wings for Alabama.
    -- Alex Scarborough, TideNation
ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

Start date: March 10

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. Bielema’s stamp: They won’t remember 2012 very fondly in Arkansas. It started with Bobby Petrino’s embarrassing ouster last spring and ended with a forgettable 4-8 season. The Hogs are starting all over with Bret Bielema, who led Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowl appearances. This spring will be Bielema’s first real chance to put his stamp on the program and introduce the Hogs to his brand of power football.
  2. Offensive overhaul: Bielema was known at Wisconsin for running the football behind big, physical offensive lines. His offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, has more of a passing pedigree. It will be interesting to see how it all comes together offensively for the Hogs, who are losing their top passer, top two rushers and top three receivers from last season. Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell will vie for the starting quarterback job.
  3. Defense takes the lead: The Hogs won under Petrino thanks to their high-scoring offense, and at times, in spite of their defense. But in 2013, the defense may have to carry a lot more of the load. First-year coordinator Chris Ash inherits a veteran front, some young talent at linebacker and a secondary that also should be much improved. It’s a unit that will need to mesh quickly, and that starts this spring.

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SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
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