Week 1 thrashing teaches us much, lots still left to learn

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, September 2, 2008

If you didn’t look at the credit in our Sunday newspaper under the picture of Alabama running back Glen Coffee from Saturday’s game against Clemson at the Georgia Dome, my name was there. Not to say that picture was anything special, but I was a witness of the Crimson Tide’s 34-10 embarrassment of Clemson in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff.

As is the case any time two football teams take the field and compete against each other, there are lessons to be learned:

1. Preseason rankings don’t mean much. Alabama came in at No. 24 in the Associated Press poll, and Clemson was No. 9. One week later, the Tide is No. 13, and the Tigers are no longer ranked.

2. Week 1 rankings don’t mean much, either. Clemson will still win a lot of games. It might even win a weak Atlantic Coast Conference. Alabama, meanwhile, showed how good it can be, but the jury is still out on how good it will be. Bama fans couldn’t wait for the rankings to be released Tuesday to see how far they jumped, but the real question is where Alabama will be ranked after consecutive trips to Arkansas and Georgia to end the month.

3. Alabama has an above average defensive line. The front was a perceived weakness coming into the season, but holding what is considered the nation’s top running back duo to a combined 20 yards rushing will change people’s minds. Huge junior college transfer Terrence Cody is a revelation at nose tackle. Just by tying up two (or three) blockers on every play, Cody makes the other linemen better.

4. Clemson couldn’t compete in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama played well, but the story was that a preseason top-10 team couldn’t match the intensity brought by the underdogs. Clemson even had the advantage of having played in the dome for its bowl game at the end of last season and had an experienced team compared to Alabama, which was relying on several true freshmen in a pressure-packed environment. The Tigers didn’t look like the kind of team that could make it in the nation’s toughest conference. The best description I’ve heard of the SEC is that, week in and out, it’s like a knife fight in a ditch.

5. SEC fans love to tell people how good their conference is. The chant began with 12 minutes still left in the game: “SEC! SEC!” I don’t think fans of teams in other conferences enjoy representing their league quite like Southern football fans do. Or maybe they don’t come out on the winning side as often.

6. 7 p.m. is too late of a start time when you’re running on 3 1/2 hours of sleep. I was up late Friday covering high school football then finishing Tuesday’s paper because of Labor Day. That left me short on shut-eye when my ride wanted to leave at 7 a.m. Saturday. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it by about 6 p.m. The game sure woke me up, though. There’s nothing quite like college football.