Coaching duo has shot at history

Published 1:34 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2008

This is, without a doubt, the most exciting time of the year for college football fans. Practice has just begun, and no team has yet suffered a loss, each one of which serves to dampen the spirits of the team’s fans.

The arrival of the preseason prognostication magazines and the Southeastern Conference’s Media Days officially begin the madness we take part in every fall in the South. I’ve started thumbing through the media guides (Arkansas and Auburn down, everyone else to go), played almost a full season on my college football video game (I need a win over USC to win the national championship), and began watching taped games from years past (sad, I know).

Every breeze takes me to gameday on a college campus with leaves falling all around.

The only problem is there are no games yet – and won’t be for almost another month. That leaves people such as myself plenty of time to think, and I’ve stumbled across some epiphanies (we’ll have a couple today followed up by more on Sunday):

Sylvester Croom can coach. This might not be breaking news since Sly was the conference’s coach of the year in 2007, but what he has done at Mississippi State goes beyond that. Not to put the cart before the horse, but Croom could have his Bulldogs primed for their best ever run.

After an 8-5 season that included wins over both Alabama and Auburn, do you think the Crimson Tide is kicking itself for opting for Mike Shula over Croom back before the 2003 season?

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, and ‘Bama fans are probably OK with the guy now walking the sideline. Nick Saban will have the Tide winning again, and that brings up an interesting question: Can Alabama and Auburn be successful at the same time?

History suggests yes but at different levels of success. In the last half-century, there have been only three AP polls (1998, 2001 and 2003) that didn’t include at least one state school. However, there have been only six times (1963, 1972, 1974, 1986, 1989 and 1994) both teams have finished the season ranked in the top 10. The Paul “Bear” Bryant-Ralph “Shug” Jordan combination were responsible for three of those occasions, while Ray Perkins-Pat Dye, Bill Curry-Dye and Gene Stallings-Terry Bowden all had their turns.

So, can the Saban-Tommy Tuberville combination add to that short list? They’ve got a good shot this year.