Alabama stuns Clemson 34-10

No. 24 Alabama thrashed No. 9 Clemson 34-10 in Atlanta Saturday night.

“Nobody can be satisfied with a one-game performance,” Saban said. “This will be a challenge for our team and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.”

Still, as the Alabama band broke into Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” at the end, you had to wonder if they were honoring the Crimson Tide’s past, with 12 national titles and years of dominance in the Southeastern Conference under Bear Bryant, or gazing into the near future.

Tide QB John Parker Wilson was outstanding, throwing for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 22 of 30 passing. But Bama won this game by getting up early and completely taking away Clemson’s dynamic rushing attack. C.J. Spiller and James Davis came into the season as one of the best backfield tandems in the nation. But collectively they only rushed for 20 yards on eight carries. Outside of Spiller’s 96-yard kickoff return in the second half, the Tide owned the Tigers in every facet of the game.

Looks like Saban is turning around Alabama’s program in just a few short years while Clemson continues to underachieve under Tommy Bowden. Alabama is a very improved program, but this loss is rather devastating to a Clemson team that was supposed to have an outside shot at a BCS title appearance.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

SI.com Game of the Week: Clemson vs. Alabama

Cory McCartney breaks down the Clemson-Alabama contest – SI.com’s Game of the Week in college football.

Three Things You Should Care About

C.J. Spiller1.Clemson has tons of talent and tons of hype. Can it live up to its billing? The Tigers head into the Georgia Dome with their highest preseason ranking since 1991 and 15 returning starters, including James Davis, Cullen Harper and C.J. Spiller, who finished 1-2-3 in the ACC preseason Player of the Year voting.

2. Ladies and gentlemen, Julio Jones is in the building. There’s no arguing with the recruiting prowess of Nick Saban, who has brought in recruiting classes ranked 10th and first in two seasons at Alabama. The latest class includes five-star wide receiver/kick returner Julio Jones and linebacker Don’ta Hightower, both of whom who will be in the starting lineup Saturday.

3. Atlanta and the Crimson Tide: two things that don’t bode well for the Tigers. Since Clemson joined the ACC in 1953, Hotlanta has been a city of horrors for the Tigers, who are 7-31-1 all-time in the Georgia capital. That figure includes trips to conference foe Georgia Tech and the Peach/Chick-fil-A Bowl, where the Tigers are 1-6. Since 1992 that bowl has been played in the Georgia Dome — where they’ll face the Tide on Saturday.

The Pick:
Clemson 24, Alabama 14. It would be a colossal disappointment for Bowden and the ACC if the conference’s best team choked in a high-profile opener. But it’s not going to happen. These Tigers are out to prove they’re beyond tripping on their own feet, and a win in an atmosphere that will be the closest they’ve seen to a BCS game would be a solid start. Clemson’s rebuilt offensive line could be an issue, but with so many weapons at the Tigers’ disposal, getting in the backfield may not help ‘Bama anyway.

This is a great test for Clemson, who always seems to underachieve under Tommy Bowden at one point during the season. This is the most talented Clemson team Bowden has had so it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep his team focused to not only make a run at the ACC crown, but also a national championship.

Week 1 College Football Primer

The line is old, tired and clichéd by I’m going to use it anyway: Football is back!

This is the opening week of college football with action kicking off Thursday, August 25 and running through Labor Day, Monday, September 1. Below is our Week 1 College Football Primer.

Top 25 Action:
No. 20 Illinois at No. 6 Missouri – Saturday, August 30, 8:30pm ET
Ron Zook and the Illini try to build on their 2007 success with a trip to Missouri to take on the No. 6 Tigers. Quarterback Chase Daniel looks to start his Heisman Trophy campaign off with a bang as he’ll face an Illinois defense that ranked 83rd in the nation against the pass last season. Even though this looks like a mismatch in favor of Missouri, clearly oddsmakers feel that the Illini can keep the game close considering the Tigers opened up as 8.5-point favorites.

No. 24 Alabama at No. 9 Clemson – Saturday, August 30, 8:00pm ET
The Tigers are considered the favorites to win the ACC this season, but Tommy Bowden’s crew has found a way to underachieve in the past. Clemson arguably has the best senior quarterback in the country Cullen Harper and the ACC’s best backfield tandem in James Davis and C.J. Spiller. For Alabama, Nick Saban’s team is expected to be improved this year and should give Clemson a game this weekend.

Keep your eye on:
Hawaii at No. 5 Florida – Saturday, August 30, 12:30pm ET
Hawaii lost their all-time leading passer Colt Brennan to the NFL and head coach June Jones to SMU, but the Warriors are still expected to light up the scoreboard. The Gators are clearly the better team, led by 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow, but Hawaii is no cupcake opponent. Think there might be some points scored in this game? Oddsmakers have established the over/under total at a whopping 71 points.

Upset Watch:
Appalachian State at No. 7 LSU – Saturday, August 30, 5:00pm ET
The Mountaineers couldn’t do it again could they? LSU is solid in the trenches and should be able to overpower tiny App State, but the same was said last year when the Mountaineers rolled into Ann Arbor and knocked off Michigan. With the explosive Armanti Edwards at quarterback, anything is possible.

Other noteable games:
No. 3 USC at Virginia – Saturday, August 30, 3:30pm ET
Washington at No. 21 Oregon – Saturday, August 30, 10:00pm ET
No. 18 Tennessee at UCLA – Monday, September 1, 8:00pm ET

2008 College Football Preview

I’ll just say what most college football fans are already thinking: Preseason polls and predictions are useless. But damn it, they’re fun to discuss.

With the amount of turnover most college football programs face from year to year, it doesn’t make much sense to try and figure out which program is better than the next. So what college football preseason polls essentially convey is that one team is better than the other because they have more returning starters.

If pollsters were smart (oxymoronic statement, I know), they’d wait until about week four of the season to release their first polls, because each team would have already played two cupcakes and two conference games. Then the college football world would have a better idea of which teams are the best because they would have proved so on the gridiron. (Or at the very least, they would have proved that they were the best teams in the nation over the first four weeks of the season.)

But I digress. I’ll be the first to admit that I get a little giddy when the new college football polls are released every year. I like seeing who the so-called experts think will be the top programs in the country and I join in all of the debates. I realize that the preseason polls don’t mean much, but they’re a big part of what makes college football fun for fans.

Below is our 2008 College Football Preview and much like last year, we won’t do our own rankings. Instead, we’ll use the USA Today Top 25 Preseason Poll and break down the chances of the top 15 teams making it to the 2009 BCS National Championship.

For each of the top 15, we’ll list the team’s NFL prospects as well as reasons to like and dislike that program’s chances of playing for a national title. Finally, we’ll list one of the team’s must-watch games this season.

As always enjoy, and Merry College Football Season to all.

1. Georgia Bulldogs
Future NFL Prospects: Knowshon Moreno, SO, RB; Matthew Stafford, JR, QB; Asher Allen, JR, CB; Dannell Ellerbe, SR, LB; Trinton Sturdivant, SO, OT
Reasons to Love: The Dawgs have one of the best collections of talent in the nation, including two Heisman Trophy candidates in Moreno and Stafford. Moreno has already drawn comparisons to former UGA greats Hershel Walker and Garrison Hearst, while Stafford will make his case to be the top quarterback taken in next year’s NFL draft (if he forgoes his senior season, that is). The defense returns nine starters to a unit that ranked 14th in the nation last year and is led by their inspirational senior linebacker Ellerbe.
Reasons to Question: The offensive line is the biggest concern for Georgia entering the 2008 season. Two of the four returning starters from last year’s squad are switching positions, while right tackle Kiante Tripp is a newcomer. The line is inexperienced on a whole, which doesn’t bode well for the two men they’ll be protecting in Moreno and Stafford. The schedule is also a doozy, with road games at LSU, Kentucky and Auburn, as well as home contests versus Tennessee and Alabama. Of course, the biggest game of the year is in early November when UGA will square off against Florida at “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party.”
Game to Watch: vs. Florida in Jacksonville, Nov. 1.

2. USC Trojans
Future NFL Prospects: Rey Maualuga, SR, LB; Brian Cushing, SR, LB; Fili Moala, SR, DT; Joe McKnight, SO, RB; Kevin Ellison, SR, SS.
Reasons to Love: Talent, Pete Carroll and a favorable schedule. The Trojans also have arguably the best linebacker corps in the nation led by Maualuga and Cushing, as well as one of the top defenses, period. Along with a promising quarterback in Mark Sanchez, USC boasts a bevy of talented running backs in McKnight, Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable. Carroll often has the best recruiting classes in the nation and his roster is always chockfull of NFL talent.
Reasons to Question: Sanchez was hurt in a preseason practice and even though it wasn’t considered serious, injuries have a way of lingering all season if the player isn’t given ample time to recover. The defense is stacked, but there was a void created when defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis was drafted into the NFL and even though they usually have the best talent in the conference, the Trojans can lose their focus at times and thus are prime candidates to be upset at any given time during the season (ahem, Stanford). Plus, a nasty case of jock itch riddled the team in August.
Game to Watch: vs. Ohio State, Sept. 13.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes
Future NFL Prospects: Chris “Beanie” Wells, JR, RB; James Laurinaitis, SR, LB; Malcolm Jenkins, SR, CB; Alex Boone, SR, OT; Brian Robiskie, SR, WR.
Reasons to Love: This team is absolutely stacked with senior talent, including a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back (Wells) and two of the top defensive prospects in the nation (Laurinaitis, Jenkins). In fact, Laurinaitis might turn out to be the greatest linebacker Ohio State has ever seen. Even though they’ll face decent road challenges at Wisconsin and Illinois this year, the Big Ten is weak on a whole and should be Ohio State’s for the taking. Head coach Jim Tressel also has one of the best offensive minds in college football.
Reasons to Question: The Buckeyes should roll through their Big Ten schedule this season, but the make or break game will be against USC on September 13. If Ohio State can pull off a huge victory, they might cruise into yet another national championship. But if the Buckeyes lose in Southern Cal, they must hope the Trojans fall once or twice during the season so they’re not looking in from the outside in come January.
Game to Watch: at. USC, Sept. 13.

4. Oklahoma Sooners
Future NFL Prospects: Sam Bradford, SO, QB; Duke Robinson, SR, OG; Phil Loadholt, SR, OT; Gerald McCoy, SO, DT; Auston English, JR, DE.
Reasons to Love: Along with Bradford, sophomore running back DeMarco Murray is a Heisman candidate in the Sooner backfield. The offensive line is also the one of the biggest in the nation, led by Loadholt and Robinson, while the defense is loaded with talent from English at end, to safety Nic Harris and corner Lendy Holmes. The secondary might be the best unit in the Big 12, if not the nation.
Reasons to Question: This team didn’t play well on the road last year, compiling a 3-3 record outside of the state of Oklahoma. Bradford must also stay healthy and playing Texas, Kansas and Kansas State in consecutive weeks is a daunting task, too.
Game to Watch: vs. Kansas, Oct. 18.

5. Florida Gators
Future NFL Prospects: Tim Tebow, JR, QB; Percy Harvin, JR, WR; Brandon Spikes, JR, LB; Jermaine Cunningham, JR, DE; Jim Tartt, SR, OG.
Reasons to Love: The Gators have arguably the best player in the country at quarterback in Tebow, and he has a host of weapons at his disposal including Harvin and running back Chris Rainey. The offense appears to be more balanced than it was last year and Spikes leads one of the best front sevens in the conference.
Reasons to Question: As with all SEC teams, Florida’s schedule is brutal. Hawaii is no cupcake to open the year and even though the Gators face LSU, Kentucky and Miami at home, none of those games will be cakewalks. Georgia, Florida State and Tennessee also highlight Florida’s schedule. The secondary is incredibly young too, and will be heavily tested by pass-happy Hawaii in the first game of the season.
Game to Watch: vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, Nov. 1.

6. LSU Tigers
Future NFL Prospects: Ciron Black, JR, OT; Herman Johnson, SR, OG; Tyson Jackson, SR, DE; Kirston Pittman, SR, DE; Darry Beckwith, SR, LB.
Reasons to Love: This team will be able to win the war in the trenches, which will make a big difference on the scoreboard. Pittman and Jackson form one of the best defensive end combos in the country, while Black and Johnson provide more than enough running room for running back Keiland Williams.
Reasons to Question: LSU lost a ton of talent from their national title team of a year ago, including defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, safety Craig Steltz, fullback Jacob Hester and QB Ryan Perrilloux, who was kicked off the team this summer. Throw in a tough SEC schedule and Les Miles’ team has several hurdles to overcome if they hope to defend their title.
Game to Watch: at. Florida, Oct. 11.

7. Missouri Tigers
Future NFL Prospects: Chase Daniel, SR, QB; Jeremy Maclin, SO, WR; William Moore, SR, S; Chase Coffman, SR, TE; Sean Weatherspoon, JR, LB.
Reasons to Love: Much like 2007, Missouri is going to light up the scoreboard again in 2008. Daniel should again be a Heisman finalist and benefits from having the explosive Maclin to throw to in the passing game. Underrated talents Weatherspoon, defensive end Stryker Sulak, defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and linebacker Justin Garrett are all players to watch out look for on the Tigers’ defense.
Reasons to Question: The offense is going to be explosive again, but can the defense match up against the best in the Big 12? The secondary has experience, but isn’t spectacular by any means and the pass rush could stand to be more consistent. MIZZOU was so close to a national title appearance last year but couldn’t hang with Oklahoma in December. Will the same happen this year with the Sooners expected to once again be the favorites in the Big 12?
Game to Watch: vs. Kansas in Kansas City, Nov. 29.

8. West Virginia Mountaineers
Future NFL Prospects: Pat White, SR, QB; Ryan Stancheck, SR, OT; Noel Devine, SO, RB; Reed Williams, SR, LB; Mortty Ivy, SR, LB.
Reasons to Love: The Mountaineers have one of the most exciting players in college football at quarterback (White), and will once again have an explosive offense. Losing Steve Slaton to the NFL hurts, but Devine has speed to burn and should fill the void Slaton left in West Virginia’s backfield. The defense is also a bit underrated and the entire team came together nicely under new head coach Bill Stewart to beat Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl when Rich Rodriguez left the program in the lurch to coach Michigan.
Reasons to Question: Same song and dance as every year – the schedule is favorable, but one slip up against a lesser foe will probably bury WVU’s title hopes. And if White can’t stay healthy, the offense just isn’t the same unit. Devine must also show that he can take on a full rushing load.
Game to Watch: at. Pittsburgh, Nov. 28. (Remember when the Panthers spoiled the Mountaineers’ national championship aspirations in the final game of 2007?)

9. Clemson Tigers
Future NFL Prospects: James Davis, SR, RB; C.J. Spiller, JR, RB; Aaron Kelly, SR, WR; Cullen Harper, SR, QB; Dorell Scott, SR, NG.
Reasons to Love: The Tigers are stacked with experienced talent and boast one of the best running back duos in college football with Davis and Spiller. The offensive line doesn’t have a ton of experience, but their development this summer has been excellent and if the unit can hold its own, the Tigers’ offense is going to be tough to stop in ’08. Clemson is deservedly the favorite to win the ACC this year with this being Tommy Bowden’s most talented team.
Reasons to Question: Bowden’s bunch always seems to find a way to underachieve so why expect anything less again in 2008? And even though their development has been solid, if the offensive line doesn’t gel then the entire offense might crumble.
Game to Watch: vs. Alabama in Atlanta, Aug. 30.

10. Texas Longhorns
Future NFL Prospects: Colt McCoy, JR, QB; Roy Miller, SR, DT; Brian Orakpo, SR, DE; Adam Ulatoski, JR, OT; Cedric Dockery, SR, OG.
Reasons to Love:It’s scary to think that McCoy is entering his third year, with two full seasons already under his belt. Much like No. 6 ranked LSU, Texas will be able to beat teams in the trenches and offers some of the best returning talent in the nation. The defensive line is scary, led by Miller, Orakpo and junior defensive tackle Lamarr Houston.
Reasons to Question: Does McCoy have enough weapons at his dispoal on offense? Vondrell McGee and Foswhitt Whitaker have tons of speed and Chris Ogbonnaya is well seasoned in the program, but will the running back-by-committee approach work? The Longhorns also have major question marks in the secondary after allowing an average of 376 yards per game and 16 touchdowns in the final five games of 2007.
Game to Watch: vs. Oklahoma in Dallas, Oct. 11.

11. Auburn Tigers
Future NFL Prospects: Sen’Derrick Marks, JR, DT; Antonio Coleman, JR, DE; Tray Blackmon, JR, LB; Jerraud Powers, JR, CB; Lee Ziemba, SO, OT.
Reasons to Love: The Tigers have one of the best defensive backfields in the conference and if the front seven can generate a better pass rush this season, the secondary should blossom even more. Powers was excellent as a sophomore last year and the safety combo of Mike McNeil and Zac Etherdige is amongst the best in the SEC. The defense will carry Auburn again in 2008…
Reasons to Question: …but the offense has some question marks. Quarterback Kodi Burns is talented, but consistency might be an issue and Texas Tech transfer Chris Todd is currently dealing with an injured shoulder. For how good the defense should be, the pass rush was an issue last year and losing Quentin Groves (although injured at times last year) doesn’t help. The Tigers are talented, but they also have a fair amount of question marks heading into the season.
Game to Watch: vs. Georgia, Nov. 15.

12. Wisconsin Badgers
Future NFL Prospects: P.J. Hill, JR, RB; Travis Beckum, SR, TE, Jonathan Casillas, SR, LB; Shane Carter, JR, S; Matt Shaughnessy, SR, DE.Reasons to Love: The Badgers are stacked at running back and Hill should once again prove to be a headache for opponents to bring down. Beckum is also one of the top tight ends in the nation and the schedule is incredibly favorable with Wisconsin getting Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State all at home.
Reasons to Question: Injuries are piling high and deep on defense. Allen Langford and Aaron Henry, the Badgers’ top two corners, are both coming off ACL injuries and the entire defensive line is banged up. The quarterback situation is also a huge question mark and even though they’re expected to be Ohio State’s top competition in the Big Ten this year, Wisconsin won’t stand a chance against the talented Buckeyes with a banged up roster.
Game to Watch: vs. Ohio State, Oct. 4.

13. Kansas Jayhawks
Future NFL Prospects: Todd Reesing, JR, QB; Joe Mortensen, SR, LB; Mike Rivera, SR, LB; Dexton Fields, SR, WR; James Holt, SR, LB.
Reasons to Love: The Jayhawks were one of the best stories in 2007 and they return their star player in Reesing. Kansas led the nation in turnover margin last year and ranked seventh in passing efficiency. They also have maybe the best linebacker corps in the Big 12 led by seniors Mortensen, Rivera and Fields, and the trio will only benefit having a solid line in front of them.
Reasons to Question: Compared to last year, Kansas has a brutal schedule this season. The Jayhawks face Texas and Texas Tech at home, travel to Oklahoma and then end the season with their annual trip to Kansas City to take on rival Missouri. They won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this year and their special teams must improve as well.
Game to Watch: at. Oklahoma, Oct. 18.

14. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Future NFL Prospects: Michael Crabtree, SO, WR; Graham Harrell, SR, QB; Brandon Williams, JR, DE; Darcel McBath, SR, S; Louis Vasquez, SR, OG.
Reasons to Love: If you like points, you’ll love the Red Raiders. Harrell and Crabtree are Heisman Trophy candidates and they play in one of the most explosive offensive systems in football. The unit is also experienced, which means there’s a smaller learning curve at the beginning of the season.
Reasons to Question: The defense is going to make or break this team because the offense is going to score points. Last year Tech couldn’t stop the opposition from running at will and allowed 177 yards per game on the ground. If opponents can run the ball again this year, they can control the clock and also keep the potent Red Raider offense off the field.
Game to Watch: at. Oklahoma, Nov. 22.

15. Virginia Tech Hokies
Future NFL Prospects: Victor Harris, SR, CB; Orion Martin, SR, DE; Cam Martin, JR, LB; Kam Chancellor, JR, S; Sean Glennon, SR, QB.
Reasons to Love: Frank Beamer always produces some of the best special teams in college football and to no one’s surprise, VA Tech will boast a terrific defense again in 2008. “Macho” Harris is one of the top cornerback prospects in the nation and will get plenty of help from Orion Martin, Cam Martin, Chancellor and sophomore defensive end Jason Worilds.
Reasons to Question: Brandon Ore is gone and therefore so is a lot of the positional talent on offense. Glennon is steady, but will have to battle Tyrod Taylor for snaps. The offensive line must also play better too after struggling in the beginning of 2007 before regrouping in the second half. While the defense should once again be one of the best units in the ACC, losing Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi hurts.
Game to Watch: at. Miami, Nov. 13.

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