Alabama coach Nick Saban instructs the defensive backs during the NCAA college football team’s practice Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)
First off, check out my main story about the Alabama football team in the Wednesday editions of the Decatur Daily and TimesDaily. It’s on running back Dee Hart coming back from two knee surgeries to make an impact.
Here’s my notebook leading off with an anxious coach Nick Saban when it comes to the offensive line.
Here are some notes of interest about Saturday’s season opener against Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome.
MAKING HISTORY: Alabama has laid claim to three of the last four BCS National Championships and now boast 15 national championships in the program’s history. The Tide won in 2009 and then went back-to-back in 2011 and 2012. The back-to-back titles are the first in the BCS era and the first since Nebraska went back to back in 1994-95. The Cornhuskers are also the last team to win three out of four national titles. Nebraska won consensus titles in 1994 and 1995 and shared the 1997 championship with Michigan. The last team to win three of four consensus national championships was Notre Dame who captured the 1946, 1947 and 1949 championships. Minnesota is the last team to win three straight national championships (1934-36) with only the 1936 title coming in the era of the Associated Press college football poll. The Crimson Tide also won three titles in five years from 1961 to 1965.
PRESEASON RANKINGS: Alabama opens the 2013 season ranked first in the Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches’ preseason polls, while Virginia Tech comes in receiving votes in both.
VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies are coming off a 7-6 2012 season and a Russell Athletic Bowl victory in overtime against Rutgers. Under 27th-year head coach Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech is 216-104-2, with four BCS bowl appearances in the last six seasons. The Hokies have the sixth most wins in the country since 2001. Virginia Tech enters the 2013 season returning 15 starters and 50 letterwinnners.
SERIES HISTORY: Alabama holds a commanding 11-1 edge in the all-time series with Virginia Tech. The two teams last met in a familiar situation as they opened the 2009 season in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta. In that contest, the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide downed the seventh-ranked Hokies, 34-24. Alabama won the first 10 games in the series that began with a 9-6 Tide win in 1932. Alabama then posted shutouts over Tech in 1933 (27-0) and 1952 (33-0). Alabama and Virginia Tech met six times from 1968 to 1979 with two games in Birmingham, one in Blacksburg and four in Tuscaloosa. The largest margin of victory for the Crimson Tide came in 1973 when UA posted a 77-6 win in Tuscaloosa. Several of the Tide’s all-time single-game records that were set that day still stand, including 833 total yards, 11.9 yards per play, 748 rushing yards and 11.9 yards per rush.
RETURNING SUCCESS: Alabama returns 13 starters and 48 lettermen from its 2012 squad that won the BCS National Championship, finishing with a record of 13-1. The Crimson Tide returns six starters on offense, including Cyrus Kouandjio, Anthony Steen, AJ McCarron, Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones, while the defense returns seven starters, including Ed Stinson, C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Trey Depriest, Xzavier Dickson and Deion Belue.
NEUTRAL SITES: Alabama is 73-46-4 (.610) in neutral site games. The list includes all Alabama-Auburn games not played on campus, including Legion Field from 1948-88. The Crimson Tide played three neutral site contests last season, opening the year with a 41-14 win over No. 8 Michigan at Cowboys Stadium. In the postseason Alabama downed No. 3 Georgia, 32-28 at the SEC Championship in Atlanta and No. 1 Notre Dame, 42-14, at the Discover BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium.
DOME SWEET DOME: Alabama is 14-5-1 (.725) in domed stadiums, including a 5-0 mark since 2009, and 6-2 in Saban’s tenure. The Crimson Tide had two appearances in a dome last season with the opener against Michigan at Cowboys Stadium and the SEC Championship against Georgia in the Georgia Dome.
SUCCESS ON THE ROAD: Alabama begins the season with a 14-game winning streak away from Bryant-Denny Stadium. The 14-game streak includes both true road games and neutral-site games and dates back to a 24-21 loss at LSU on Nov. 6, 2010. The streak also includes victories over Notre Dame (Miami Gardens), LSU (Baton Rouge and New Orleans), Michigan (Dallas), at Penn State, at Florida, at Arkansas and at Auburn. The current streak is the second-longest of its kind in Alabama history behind a 19-game streak that began on Sept. 24, 1977, and ended on Nov. 1, 1980. Since 2008, the Crimson Tide is 29-4 (.879) away from Bryant-Denny Stadium, including a 4-1 record in bowl games. During that time, Alabama is 32-3 at Bryant-Denny Stadium (.914).
ALABAMA EQUALS MOST WINS SINCE 2008: Dating back to the start of the 2008 season, Alabama has won 61 games, which is tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision with Boise State. The Crimson Tide won 12 games in 2008, followed by a perfect 14-0 record in 2009, a 10-3 mark in 2010 and a 12-1 record in 2011. Alabama finished 13-1 in 2012. Oregon is third during that period with 56 victories.
10-WIN SEASONS: Alabama reached the 10-win milestone for the fifth consecutive season in 2012, boasting a 13-1 record. In 117 seasons, the Tide has won 10 or more games 32 times, two back of Oklahoma (34) for the most 10-win seasons in college football. Alabama has produced seven 10-win seasons since the 2002 season (2002, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012). Saban is the 11th coach in school history to lead his team to a 10-win season and is the fifth coach in school history to have more than one 10-win season.
53 NATIONAL TV APPEARANCES IN 69 GAMES: Alabama’s appearance on ESPN in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic is the 53rd nationally televised game since the start of the 2008 season for the Crimson Tide. The Tide played 12 nationally televised games in 2012, with one game on ABC, six on CBS and five on ESPN. In 2011, Alabama played on CBS four times, while having one game on ABC, two on ESPN and ESPN2, and one game on ESPNU. In 2010, Alabama had five games on CBS, three on ESPN, two on ESPN2, one on ABC and one on ESPNU. In 2009, UA played two games on ABC (including the BCS title game), and six on CBS, while ESPN televised two more Crimson Tide games. In 2008, Alabama had 10 of its 14 games televised nationally, including five on CBS, three on ESPN, one on ABC and one on FOX.
ALABAMA’S TV RECORD: Alabama has compiled a 203-127-4 (.614) all-time record in 334 televised games (not including pay-per-view, tape-delayed or closed circuit telecasts).
Alabama linebacker/defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) works through drills during NCAA college football practice, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)