Opening games could be a trap

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2006

In just 17 days, it will be here. Yes, college football is slowly encroaching upon us.

Like a child waiting in bed for the first sign of daybreak on Christmas, I have been counting down the days, hours and minutes until Auburn and Alabama football kicks off for what seems like an eternity.

The first college football game in the state of Alabama is our equivalent to the folks in Puxatony, Penn., pulling that rat out of a hole every February 2 and from that determining what the weather is going to be like for the next six weeks.

Coincidentally, the first Auburn and Alabama game is often a version of the &#8220Alabama Groundhog” and a good indicator to whether the Tide and Tigers will have productive seasons or seasons to forget.

In recent years, the Tide and Tigers have both had unfortunate experiences on opening day.

Over the last 10 years, the Tide has beaten Bowling Green, Houston, BYU, Vanderbilt, South Florida, Utah State and Middle Tennessee twice with a combined score of 282-147, with the Tide winning two of those games by a touchdown or less and two others by two touchdowns or less.

When the Tide opened up with a respectable team like UCLA in 2000 and 2001, Alabama was beaten both times.

Auburn has played UAB, Appalachian State, Wyoming, Ball State and Louisiana-Monroe in opening games over the last 10 years and outscored those opponents 157-36.

In opening games versus respectable teams like Virginia, USC and Georgia Tech, the Tigers won the first meeting at Virginia and then was defeated in the other four games by a combined score 31-89.

When it comes to opening games it is clear it takes several games for the Tide and Tigers to get their motors running.

Knowing how much the Tide and Tigers struggle in opening games, this year's opening contests of the Tide versus Hawaii and Auburn versus Washington State seem to be not so easy after all.

The Warriors from Hawaii beat the Tide in the final game of 2002 season and would love nothing more than to spoil the grand unveiling of the newly renovated Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Washington State Cougars went to the Rose Bowl during the Mike Price era and the Tigers have lost three of the last four openers, so this one is not as easy as it looks either.

When the Tide and Tigers don't schedule cupcake opponents on opening day, bad things tend to happen.

Maybe this year, the &#8220Alabama Groundhog” will not see his shadow.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor.

You can contact him by e-mailing or by calling 382-3111 ext. 122.