Second of half of season will define state teams

Published 10:20 pm Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Judging by the moods of the Alabama and Auburn fan bases this week, you’d think it was the Crimson Tide that had won six straight in the bitter rivalry instead of the other way around.

Tide fans are understandably giddy after their team’s beatdown of then-No. 3 Georgia in Athens, Ga. Alabama played phenomenally (anyone still questioning John Parker Wilson’s ability to play championship-quality football at quarterback?). Teams as talented as Georgia don’t get embarrassed in their own house too often, and Alabama reaped the benefits of doing just that by jumping all the way from No. 8 to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.

That poll, by the way, doesn’t really matter anymore because it’s not a part of the Bowl Championship Series formula. ‘Bama is ranked fourth in the USA Today coaches poll, which is considered by the BCS. Considering what the Tide has done (defeated three teams from BCS conferences away from home by an average margin of 41-18), the coaches’ ranking seems a slight. It won’t matter as the season goes along, though, because any Southeastern Conference team that goes undefeated this year or any year in the foreseeable future will play for the national championship.

Possibly the most interesting poll out there is the Legends Poll, which is compiled by Sporting News Today. Two out of 18 former coaching greats voted Alabama at No. 1 – former Stanford coach John Ralston and…former Auburn coach Pat Dye.

Dye’s old team travels to Nashville this weekend to take on Vanderbilt. It’s not difficult to remember the days when you could chalk up a contest with the Commodores as a win, but that’s not the case this year. Vandy is 4-0 and ranked in every major poll. And ESPN’s College GameDay program will be on hand. You read that right: GameDay, in Nashville, for a Vanderbilt game.

The Commodores will present a challenge for Auburn. Brundidge native Chris Nickson will be the first quarterback Auburn has faced that can make plays outside of the pocket, and the Vandy defense is good enough to challenge their visitors’ offense again.

If Auburn pulls out a win, the fans need to give their team a break. The Tigers lost two of their first three last year but improved as the season went along, a theme for Auburn under coach Tommy Tuberville.

Vandy will be fired up, and you have to think Kentucky will be, too, when it visits Tuscaloosa. As good as Alabama has looked and as much recognition as it has received, a Tulane-like performance against the Wildcats would result in a crash as meteoric as the climb has been.

The Tide has had plenty of good Septembers the last few years. Good Novembers, on the other hand, have been more difficult to come by.