VIEW FROM THE BOOTH - DAVID CRANE
September 1, 2008
Happy Labor Day! I hope everyone is enjoying their long, holiday weekend, complete with tons of college football. This is always a great weekend to be a fan...a seemingly endless number of games starting on Thursday and not ending until late Monday night. The majority of the schools got the season rolling this weekend, and while not everyone can come away happy, you can come away with at least a few of those pre-season questions answered.
For UAB fans, the answers we got from last Saturday's season-opener with Tulsa were:
1. Yes, this Blazer offense will be more potent than last year's. Joe Webb is an amazing talent, and he showed just how exciting he'll be to watch all year long as the man that makes things go. The running game will be better, and we saw flashes of that in the first half. The receivers are solid, and the offensive line did an admirable job of protecting Joe (which is goal number one). The keys will be consistency and support. If the squad executes like it did in the first half against Tulsa, teams will have a hard time putting the clamps on UAB. While Joe made a number of outstanding plays over the course of the entire game, he didn't have quite as much "help" in the second half. It can't be a one-man show all season, and I don't think it will be.
2. No, the UAB defense couldn't slow the Golden Hurricane down. That being said, I'll be very interested to see just who DOES limit the Tulsa offense this season. Todd Graham's team is almost like a video game...or an Arena League offense...the good news is the Blazers won't see anything like it again. There were just too many missed assignments and missed tackles to have a consistent shot at slowing the Tulsa attack. This answer does lead to another question...what will the Green and Gold do against a more conventional offense? My hunch is that UAB will definitely show signs of improvement this year on defense...the stats may not reflect it for a while, though, thanks to the numbers posted by TU.
3. Yes, the Blazers will be improved in 2008. Again, one game doesn't make a season...at least not the first game of the year...so while it's disappointing to lose the opener...at home...against a Conference USA team...think back to a year ago. The feeling after Saturday's game with Tulsa is in no way, shape or form similar to how we all felt one year ago at this time.
4. Yes, Tulsa would win the ACC.
As we jump into September, the schedule is absolutely brutal. Florida Atlantic won the Sun Belt last year and whipped Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl. Tennessee opens the year in the top-20, and South Carolina shut out NC State on Thursday night. After that trip to Columbia, it's CUSA games the rest of the way. If the Blazers can make it through September healthy (where, oh where, is an ACC team when we need one?), then Neil Callaway's team will be thoroughly "seasoned" and ready for the conference grind.
ODDS AND ENDS...
Hats of to the UAB fans on Saturday, especially the students...it was one of the warmer days of the summer, but we had a good crowd at Legion Field...they were treated to quite a show in the first half, and I'd say it was one of the best student turnouts I've seen in my brief time here at UAB.
Conference USA went 7-4 in the opening weekend (two of the losses - UAB and SMU - were inevitable...they played a conference team in the opener), including ECU's upset of #15 Virginia Tech (the defending ACC champs) in Charlotte. The other losses (Memphis and UTEP) were to an SEC team (Ole Miss) on the road and a much-improved Buffalo team on the road, respectively.
Listening to some of the radio experts around the country, CUSA has a real opportunity to step up again this weekend. Marshall plays at #12 Wisconsin, Southern Miss is at #10 Auburn, East Carolina plays host to #8 West Virginia, Tulane opens their season at #24 Alabama, #19 South Florida meets UCF in Orlando, and UTEP welcomes #10 Texas to the Sun Bowl. A win in any one of those games might be enough to convince everyone that CUSA is indeed better than the ACC in football.
Speaking of Tulane...if you see any of the Green Wave in town this week...be nice. They relocated to Birmingham late last week to avoid Hurricane Gustav. Thank goodness, it looks like New Orleans will be spared, and Gustav will not be the "Storm of the Century" as some predicted. Keep the folks in Louisiana in your thoughts this week...even a Category 2 storm can cause problems...I can't imagine having to leave everything behind and hope for the best.
So to wrap things up...hate we lost to Tulsa (a very good team and a very difficult team to play, regardless of prep time)...definite positives to carry over to this Saturday's trip to Florida Atlantic...the Blazers will be better...and at least you aren't the ACC Commissioner...or the University of North Carolina game management staff...who had to call Duke and apologize for the parachuter who landed at Wallace Wade Stadium as the Blue Devils were warming up for their game against James Madison...in Durham...with the game ball for the UNC/McNeese State game...played at Kenan Stadium...in Chapel Hill...eight miles away. Oops.