Bama (Natl Champ)
Alabama Crimson Tide (National Championship)
L, 23-26

  1. Anointment can lead to laziness and disappointment can result in focus. Being the number 1 team preseason 2008 may have caused some to start "believing their own hype." The reports out of Athens of late have seemed to indicate that workouts and practices are more spirited than ever with a focus on redemption for a season in which the team fell short of their goals.

  2. The offensive line should be one of the best in the SEC, maybe even the nation. The o-line wasn't exactly a weakness last year, but it did break down from time to time. Moreno made some of the best 2 and 3 yard runs I've ever seen in my life. This year, who ever wins the QB and RB jobs should have plenty of time to throw and some monster running lanes to work with.

  3. The defensive line will be improved. The interior will get a big boost from Jeff Owens's return. Irvin was serviceable, but not on par with Owens. There is still a lot to be worked out on the ends, but they can't really go anywhere but up after last season.

  4. Joe Cox (at least to this point) seems to be the vocal leader the 2008 team so desperately needed. Stafford is no doubt one of the best bulldog QBs of all time, but he got himself into trouble sometimes trusting his cannon too much and he also was not a vocal leader. It sounds like Cox has the respect of the locker room, and he isn't afraid to let a guy know when he screws up. This team really needed that at times last year.

  5. MoMass will be sorely missed, but a healthy AJ Green will be fun to watch. Green will get his numbers, but he will also command the attention of opposing secondaries. Guys like Moore, Durham, Troupe, Wilson and incoming Marlon Brown will have plenty of 1-on-1 opportunities to make plays.

  6. The tight end position has not been the impact position in has been in recent history. It was only a couple catches, but Aron White offered a ray of hope late last season. Another off-season to bulk up and continue to learn the offense could be just what White needs to make a big splash in 2009. Having a tight end that can stretch the field down the middle would go a long way in making this offense a successful one. Also, if we can get him on campus, don't sleep on Orson Charles making an impact this season as well.

  7. Expect big things from the return teams. Short of Prince Miller's punt return TD against Alabama, the return teams were pretty ho-hum. Not bad, but not exciting either. I expect to see Branden Smith and Carlton Thomas make big splashes here in 2009. Both guys are quick and great in space. They have the ability to alter games and flip position with their return abilities.

  8. Blair Walsh will have a full season under his belt. The guy has a monster leg, but it was obvious the pressure got to him a little bit down the stretch last season. I expect him to be automatic this year, and for the rest of his career. I'm also hopeful that our coaches will scrap this "spot-kicking" on kickoffs this season. Walsh seemed to have enough leg to get kickoffs consistently inside the 5, and even sometimes into the end zone. I'd rather do that than angle a kick and basically guarantee teams starting field position around the 35 or 40.

  9. Rennie Curran is going to get even better. I was STUNNED that Curran was not 1st team AP All-SEC and that he didn't even make honorable mention on most All-American teams. This guy is the best linebacker we've had since Boss Bailey, and we've seen some good ones in Athens (Thurman, Taylor, Ellerbe). He will continue to be a tackling machine in 2009.

  10. Finally, I'm going out on a limb here (and knocking on some wood), but injuries can't possibly be as devastating this year. Last year was unlike anything I've ever seen, so hopefully that was just an anomaly. If we stay relatively healthy, I expect 2009 to be a big season (at least 10 wins, top 10 finish, and a trip to Atlanta in December). I know Florida is everyone's favorite, but refer to number 1 on this list for my thoughts on that.