Today, the big news has been about Alabama's textbook scandal and the fallout thereof. But that won't have anything to do with the 2009 product. So here we go.
Alabama Crimson Tide (Nov. 14, in Starkville)
• Conference: SEC West
• 2008 record: 12-2 (8-0, 1st), lost 31-17 to Utah in Sugar Bowl
• Final ranking: No. 6 (AP, ESPN/USA Today)
• Coach: Nick Saban (2 years, 19-8 record)
• Returning starters: 16 (5 offense, 9 defense, 2 specialists)
• Last year: Alabama 32, MSU 7 (in Tuscaloosa)
• On the Web: rolltide.com
After winning all 12 regular season games, capturing the SEC Western Division title and earning a Sugar Bowl berth, it was like old times in T-Town. The national championship talk got squashed by Florida in the SEC title game, but Alabama was back where its fans think it belongs. Needless to say, the expectations this season are higher than they should be. Not that the Crimson Tide can't have another outstanding season, but you know how college football fans can be, especially ones from Alabama.
First, though, some big needs have to be addressed. John Parker Wilson is being replaced at QB by junior Greg McElroy, who's gotten good early reviews. Then there's running back, which opened up after Glen Coffee left early for the NFL. Enter true freshman Trent Richardson, a big-time recruit who should win the starting nod. And then there's that gaping hole at left tackle, once occupied by Andre Smith. And the hole at center, where Antoine Caldwell once directed things up front.
The Tide ought to be in fine shape come Nov. 14. MSU will be coming off a bye week, while Bama will have just played LSU in what will likely be a good ol' SEC West throwdown. Maybe that'll help the Bulldogs.
Alabama didn't exactly tear it up offensively against State in last year's meeting – 364 total yards – but Javier Arenas had six punt returns for 153 yards, including an 80-yard TD return early in the third quarter to break open a tight game. Arenas is back for another year. And let us not forget about Julio Jones, who might have a field day against MSU's cornerbacks.
Up next: Arkansas