Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AROUND THE LEAGUE; Crimson Tide Feeling the Heat, Although That's a Good Thing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AROUND THE LEAGUE; Crimson Tide Feeling the Heat, Although That's a Good Thing

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, The Times-Union

It was a victory over a clearly overmatched team, but it was the sweetest win Alabama has tasted in the last three years.

The Crimson Tide's 30-14 win over Mississippi State on Saturday made them bowl eligible in their first season after an NCAA-mandated two-year bowl ban.

"Now we're playing for heat," offensive lineman Wesley Britt said. "We want to win some more games, and go further south [for a bowl game]."

Looks like the furthest south Alabama could go is Tampa, for the Outback Bowl. The Houston, Independence and Peach bowls also are a possibility, unless, of course, the Crimson Tide upsets No. 17 LSU and No. 3 Auburn.

Regardless of where the Crimson Tide ends up, the program is enjoying its first bowl appearance since the 2001 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

Since that game, Alabama has had to deal with NCAA probation, which included the postseason ban and the loss of 21 scholarships -- plus three coaches, and an embarrassing strip-club scandal involving one of them.

"The black cloud's gone from over our heads now," safety Charlie Peprah said. "We're singing the fight song, everybody's cheering. Now it's a good feeling to know we're back in the chase. It's a different attitude than the last two years."

HONOR THE POPE

He began the season as a backup, but Georgia tight end Leonard Pope has become one of the Bulldogs' best offensive weapons.

Pope has caught a touchdown pass in each of Georgia's last four games -- including two against Florida on Oct. 30, and he has 16 catches for 312 yards. His 19.5 yards-per-catch average is the best on the team of anyone with more than two catches.

"The way he is playing now, it is going to be hard to shut him down," said safety Thomas Davis, who has to cover Pope in practice. …

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