Alabama Crimson Tide: Tide Schedule Preview

Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with Joel Erickson, who covers Auburn for the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer.

[+] EnlargeOnterio McCalebb
AP Photo/Austin McAfeeRB Onterio McCalebb should provide Auburn explosiveness out of the backfield in 2012.
Scarborough: A new offensive coordinator, new defensive coordinator, new starting running back and a quarterback competition. The offseason at Auburn has been more tumultuous than usual this year. How has all the turnover affected the program and what kind of changes can we expect under both coordinators?
Erickson: Auburn has had a quarterback battle every year that Gene Chizik has been the head coach, and the return of Onterio McCalebb means that the Tigers have some continuity at the running back position, if not a clear No. 1 option in the absence of Mike Dyer. What really could affect the program is the change in coordinators. Expect Brian VanGorder’s defense to attack more, especially on the defensive line. VanGorder asks his defensive linemen to focus on penetration, rather than reading and reacting like they did under Ted Roof. On the offensive side, the days of Auburn running the hurry-up, no-huddle offense are over. New coordinator Scot Loeffler has kept his cards close to the vest, but Loeffler will likely run some pro-style, some shotgun and some pistol, with an offense tailored to his playmaker’s strengths.

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[+] EnlargeC.J. Mosley and Kiehl Frazier
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAuburn's Kiehl Frazier is expected to have his hands on the ball during key plays in 2012.
The rundown
2011 overall record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 4-4
Record against Alabama: 34-41-1

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Q&A with WCU writer Goode 

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
6:45
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Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with Tyler Norris Goode, who covers Western Carolina for Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times.

Scarborough: To start things off, give us a brief tutorial on the Catamounts. What's their style of play? What are their strengths and weaknesses as you see them?
Goode: Any summary on WCU has to begin with the program’s recent plunge from near mediocrity to utter futility. Since the Catamounts’ last winning season (5-4 in 2005), Western has lost 43 of its 46 Southern Conference games. Dennis Wagner, who stepped down as head coach before the Cats’ final game last year, had a four-year winning percentage of .182 (8-36) -- second-worst in the program’s 78-year history. The team’s greatest strength right now is probably hope and enthusiasm surrounding new coach Mark Speir and his staff, who are implementing their version of the spread offense. Weaknesses are too numerous to name, but the top one would be defensive ineptitude.

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[+] EnlargeKevin Sumlin
AP PhotoTexas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin will need a stout defense to compete in the SEC.
The rundown
2011 overall record: 7-6
2011 conference record: 4-5
All-time record against Alabama: 3-1

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Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with Sam Kahn Jr., who covers all things Texas A&M for ESPN.com.

Scarborough: The Aggies are in a tough situation, adjusting to a new league, a new coach and a new starting quarterback at the same time. How has the transition been thus far and what do you feel are reasonable expectations for this coming season?

Kahn: So far the transition has been smooth. There has been a lot of "new" around campus in addition to the things you mentioned: a new athletic director , a new, huge weight room and new uniforms. The fact that Kevin Sumlin brought a large portion of his offensive coaching staff with him from Houston makes for some continuity, but there's also transition in that the defense is moving to a 4-3 alignment under new coordinator Mark Snyder, and of course the offense will move towards a higher tempo under Kliff Kingsbury, an Air Raid disciple. Looking at the schedule, it's reasonable to expect a 6-7 win season. There will be some bumps in the road in making the transition (especially at quarterback), but the Aggies have enough talent to get to a bowl game.

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Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with David Helman, who covers all things LSU for GeauxTigerNationESPN.com.

Scarborough: What is the mood around the LSU campus in the aftermath of losing to Alabama in the national championship game? Is there a sense of revenge?
Helman: I'm not sure the word "revenge" completely encapsulates what LSU fans want out of 2012. Sure, any and every Tigers fan wants to beat the Crimson Tide on Nov. 3. But it wasn't just a big rivalry game Alabama won last January -- Nick Saban and Co. completely tainted what had been one of the most impressive single seasons in college football history. Beating Bama would be huge, but for many LSU fans, a national title might be the only way to wash Jan. 9 away.

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Tide schedule preview: LSU 

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
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Les MilesAP Photo/Tom HauckLes Miles had no answers in the title game, but the Tigers, like the Tide, are capable of a return trip.
The rundown
2011 overall record: 13-1
2011 SEC record: 8-0 (first, beat Georgia in SEC championship game)
Record all time against Alabama: 25-46-5

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The rundown
2011 record: 5-7
2011 conference record: 1-7
Returning starters: Offense: 10; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

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Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with Dave Matter, who covers all things Missouri for the Columbia Daily Tribune. He's the co-author of The Mizzou Fan's Survival Guide to the SEC.

Question: It's the place everyone starts and I'll be no different: How do you see Missouri's transition to the SEC going in Year 1?

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireIf Missouri QB James Franklin gets fully healthy, SEC defenses will be challenged.
Matter: Missouri has the roster to compete in 2012, especially in the Eastern Division. Having a returning starting quarterback is crucial assuming James Franklin will be fully recovered from shoulder surgery he underwent in March. The Tigers return enough first-team talent and experience on both sides of the ball to compete with the best teams in the SEC East, —but I'’m not convinced they have the depth to win the division while going through the grind of the SEC schedule. There will be some adjustments against the typical style of offense in the league, but Missouri has historically played better against physical, run-first, pro-style offenses, on the rare occasion it faced that kind of attack in the Big 12. Texas would be the best example of late, and MU had its best defensive game of the year last season against Texas.

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The rundown
2011 record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 5-4
All-time against Alabama: 2-1

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Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. Today we spoke with Parrish Alford, who covers all things Ole Miss for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

Question: What has been your impression of Hugh Freeze in his first year at Ole Miss? How are players reacting to him personally, as well as his change in coaching philosophy?

[+] EnlargeRandall Mackey
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisRandall Mackey is expected to play a number of different positions in 2012.
Alford: My impression of Hugh has been one of a tireless worker with an incredibly difficult task. He's a high-energy guy who relates well with players. There seems to be more accountability for the players and therefore more effort from the players. He seems to have gotten off to a good start in recruiting. If he can keep it up, that will serve the Rebels well in the long term.

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The rundown
2011 overall record: 2-10
2011 conference record: 0-8
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

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Each week at TideNation we will speak with a writer who covers one of Alabama's 2012 opponents. OwlAccess.com editor Marcus Nelson, who covers all things Florida Atlantic, stops by to break down the Owls and the game.

[+] EnlargeCarl Pelini
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesFormer Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini is now the head coach at Florida Atlantic.
Question: For those who aren't familiar with the FAU program (or missed the heart attack the Owls gave Auburn in the first half last season), give us a rundown of coach Carl Pelini's philosophy.
Nelson:Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini was hired in December to completely revamp the FAU football program that had slipped in the past few seasons under FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger. The early returns is he is doing just that. The Owls will emphasize defense, which could be important when they play teams from BCS conferences -- and what contributed to a game which was closer than expected in FAU’s 30-14 loss to Auburn last season.

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The rundown
2011 record: 1-11
2011 conference record: 0-8 (Sun Belt)
Returning starters: Offense: 6, Defense: 8, Specialists: 1
Top returners: QB Graham Wilbert, C Mustafa Johnson, TE Nexon Dorvilus, WR Andre Richardson, LB David Hinds, LB Randell Johnson, LB Andrae Kirk

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The rundown
2011 record: 11-2
2011 conference record: 6-2
All-time against Alabama: 8-12

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