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10, 4, 7, 10, 3, 7, 10, 4, 6, 10

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Alabama could start new trend

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Identify the next number in this sequence: 10, 4, 7, 10, 3, 7, 10, 4, 6, 10.

If you answered 3 (or any number in that neighborhood), you've already scored higher on the Wonderlic test than Vince Young.

But this sequence of numbers is more significant than a question on a silly intelligence test. These numbers represent the win totals for the Alabama football program over the last 10 years.

Dating back to Gene Stallings' last season as head coach in 1996 -- back when a 10-win season would bring questions of what went wrong -- the Tide has been in a maddening pattern of a great season, followed by a losing season, followed by a break-even season. You don't have to be Pythagoras to figure out that Mike Shula and his staff need to find a way to break the pattern this year.

The Alabama faithful can rest easy. The only way the Tide could follow last year's 10-win season and top-10 national ranking with a losing record is by dropping every game in which it will likely be an underdog (Florida, LSU and Auburn), every game that will be close to a toss-up (Arkansas and Tennessee) and two of the seven in which it will be a prohibitive favorite (Hawaii, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Monroe, Duke, Ole Miss, Florida International and Mississippi State).

So, Alabama fans shouldn't have to suffer through a fifth non-winning season in 10 years. But will this Tide team be able to put together back-to-back excellent seasons for the first time in more than a decade in Tuscaloosa?

There are more questions than answers at this point, but it was interesting to get the take of Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines Thursday night at the annual L'Arche Football Preview Dinner at the Mitchell Center.

Kines' defense was the main reason for Alabama's stellar season a year ago. During the month of October, the Tide gave up 19 points. That's not an average of 19 points -- which is considered good enough to win in these days of high-powered offenses -- but a total of 19 points to Florida (3), Ole Miss (10), Tennessee (3) and Utah State (3). For good measure, it opened the month of November with a shutout of Mississippi State.

Although the Tide lost seven starters off that defense, it's not like they were a bunch of high school blue-chip recruits or even college All-Americans. The 2005 Alabama defense was made up of a group of good but not great players who bought into Kines' attitude for the game and became the best defense in the country.

"Excitement is the word that best describes our program right now," Kines said in a spirited speech that had some 40-year-olds believing for just a second that they should strap on the helmet one more time and give it a try at middle linebacker. "We've been like a racehorse on a frozen lake. We've been on slippery ground for a while, but I think we're ready to take off. There's an excitement around town about what we're doing."

That excitement is not based on the prospect of one 10-win season every three years followed by rebuilding. This is the season when Alabama has a chance to either solidify its top-10 national ranking of a year ago or continue its trend of having one surprisingly good season every few years.

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So, Alabama fans shouldn't have to suffer through a fifth non-winning season in 10 years.

Ouch! That's gotta hurt! Is this their new tradishun? :lol:

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