Thursday, August 30, 2012

Who Are You and Why Do We Care?: Alabama Crimson Tide

With football season upon us, its time for me to dust off the old computer and remember how to put multiple words together to make coherent sentences. I will update later with pictures. 

Have we ever seen them before?
The Wolverines have played the Crimson Tide three times. All three games were bowl games, so this is the first time playing during the regular season. 

In the 1999 season, Michigan went 9-2 and reached their first BCS Bowl game: the Orange Bowl. Alabama managed to lose to Louisiana Tech, yet they still ran through the SEC on their way to a SEC Championship, and the automatic bid to the BCS. On January 1, 2000, the Mike DuBose coached Crimson Tide took a 14 - 0 lead after two Shaun Alexander touchdowns. Tom Brady responded with two straight touchdown passes to David Terrell. Shaun Alexander responded with a 50 yard run. Freddie Milons returned a punt for a touchdown to put Alabama up 28 - 14. Another pass from Brady to Terrell would make the game 28 - 21, and a three yard rush by Anthony Thomas would tie the game at 28. The score would stay that way until overtime, where Brady through a 25 yard touchdown to Shawn Thompson. Alabama would answer with a pass from Andrew Zow to Antonio Carter. Surprisingly, this would be the last possession of the game, as Ryan Pflugner, Alabama's kicker, missed the extra point, clinching the victory for Michigan. 

Jump to 6:10 to see the missed kick followed by a familiar face or two.

What do they look like?

Like Michigan, the Alabama Crimson Tide have looked the same throughout the modern era of football. Their continuous use of the exact same uniform since the 1940s is something the rest of the nation should be envious about. I cannot find a single use of an alternate uniform worn by Alabama, and they have one of the most boring uniform history timelines in all of college football (if not all sports).

Alabama's colors are Crimson and White. Their home uniforms are Crimson with White numbers, and their road uniforms are White with Crimson numbers. No stripes, no shoulder numbers, no frills at all. Alabama (and Penn State) are the epitome of boring football jerseys, but I love it. I really enjoyed watching the Penn State vs. Alabama game the last two seasons.

Where does the name Crimson Tide come from?
Before 1906, Alabama's football team was either referred to as varsity or Crimson White. They were also nicknamed the Thin Red Line. In 1907, an editor at The Birmingham Age-Herald coined the phrase Crimson Tide when reporting on the Alabama vs. Auburn football game. 

So they have two pretty iconic logos. What's up with that? 
The Crimson Tide logos have always been interesting to me. They have one of if not the best alternate logos in the country with their script A. It has a unique font, and is an icon for the school as much as the block M is for Michigan.

Alabama also has an Elephant logo. There are a few accounts for the reason behind the Elephant mascot.  In 1930, Rosenberger's Birmingham Trunk Company gave each member of the football team a red elephant luggage tag. When the team arrived in Pasedena for the Rose Bowl, reporters saw the elephant luggage tags and the enormous size of the players. They made a connection that would live on forever. That 1930 offensive line was also nicknamed the Red Elephants, as they went on to a 10 - 0 season.

Do they have good coaches?
Nick Saban may be one of the best coaches of all time, yet he is not the best coach in Alabama history. That recognition belongs to Paul "Bear" Bryant. Bryant was the Head Coach and Athletic Director at Alabama from 1957-1983. During his tenure, the Crimson Tide won 6 National Championships (including two repeats) and 15 Conference Championships. He was the AFCA Coach of the Year three times and the SEC Coach of the year twelve times, and in 1986, he was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Current head coach, Nick Saban, started his head coaching career at the University of Toledo. In one season he took the 6-5 Rockets and turned them into a 9 - 2 MAC Conference Co-Champion. After the season, Saban was hired by Bill Belichick to be the Cleveland Brown's Defensive Coordinator. After a few years in the NFL, Saban was hired to be the head coach at Michigan State. In his first four years at Michigan State, the Spartans had average records, but they were improving from the George Perles era in the early 90s. In 1999, the Spartans had a breakout season, going 9-2 and reaching the Citrus Bowl. Before the game, Saban resigned in order to take the head coaching job at LSU. During his time at Michigan State, Saban had a 2 - 3 record against the Michigan Wolverines. 

In 1999, Big Ten Network's own Gerry DiNardo was the head coach at LSU, and lead the Tigers to a 3 - 8 record. Saban was brought in and the culture changed immediately. As the Tiger's head coach, Saban would go 48-16 with two SEC Championships and a National Championship. At the end of the 2004 season, Saban went to the NFL to coach the Miami Dolphins. 

Once his two year dabble in the NFL was deemed a failure, Saban signed on to be the head coach at the University of Alabama. He had an embarrassing first season at Alabama, with a 7-6 record, including a loss to Louisiana-Monroe.  After that season, Alabama would go on to be the national power that it is today. Two National Championships later and here we are. 

Where do they play football?
The Crimson Tide play their home games at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Originally just named Denny Stadium, the name was changed to honor Bear Bryant in 1975. The stadium has a capacity of 101,821. The stadium is right in the middle of their campus, surrounded by their fraternity houses. Leading up to the stadium is the Walk of Champions. There are statues of each of the five head coaches who have won National Championships at Alabama. The players and coaches walk through this before every game. 

Do they have a goofy mascot?
An elephant mascot was first used at Alabama in the 1960s, when a student wore an elephant head costume to a game. The mascot, Big Al, appeared officially at the 1979 Sugar Bowl, and has been at every game since. 

This year, Fou will be publishing a preview post on Friday, so I will leave the wrap-up to him. I will still give my prediction based on everything but football. Even though my simulated game of NCAA '13 has Michigan winning 35-3, my prediction is Alabama 24 - Michigan 14.

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