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TIGER KICKOFF: Ten things you didn't know about Alabama

Friday, October 12, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — You know Alabama is the No. 1 ranked football team in the country.

You also know that Missouri is far from the No. 1 ranked team in the country. If you are still following the Missouri football team, you know James Franklin will not be able to play against the Crimson Tide because of a sprained MCL in his left knee. But if you have watched either of these teams this season, you know that Franklin playing probably wouldn't matter anyway.

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You might recall two years ago when Missouri upset No. 1 ranked Oklahoma on Faurot Field. If you do, you probably know that this is a very different situation.

That Tigers team was ranked No. 11 and 6-0 heading into the game.

This Tigers team is 3-3, fresh off a loss to Vanderbilt. At home.

Then there is the issue of the opponent. Alabama is not Oklahoma. There is compelling evidence that this Crimson Tide team is better than the Sooners were that season.

That Oklahoma team beat unranked teams Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati by a total of 12 points. The smallest margin of victory for Alabama so far this season was 19 points against Ole Miss.

You probably know what to expect in the game Saturday, but here are some things about Alabama that you maybe didn't know.

10. This year, 78,526 people attended Alabama's spring game. But that's down from the 92,310 who watched the Crimson Tide's spring game in 2011. To compare, 18,614 showed up for Missouri's spring game this year and just an estimated 10,000 did in 2011, before the Southeaster Conference craze. The sold-out crowd who attended Missouri's game against Georgia totaled 71,004.

9. Tuscaloosa was Alabama's capital from 1826 to 1846. The university was established in 1831, and the town experienced strong growth until the state capital relocated to Montgomery. The population rapidly declined after the change, but the town's economy was stabilized by a mental health hospital, Bryce Hospital. The hospital is currently in the process of relocating. The university now owns the old building that neighbors campus and plans to use it for student and faculty housing in the coming years.

8. The term "Crimson Tide" originated in 1907. The moniker was created when Hugh Roberts of the Birmingham Age-Herald used the term to describe how Alabama's line helped tie then-favorite Auburn 6-6 in a sea of red mud, gaining the name "Crimson Tide." That game in 1907 was the last time Alabama would play fierce rival Auburn until 1948.

7. The use of an elephant as a mascot started after the 1930 season. Sports writers referred to lineman on that season's National Champion Alabama football team as "Red Elephants" because they were so large. During a game against Ole Miss, the Atlanta Journal's Everett Strupper wrote, "At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, 'Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,' and out stamped this Alabama varsity." That team finished 10-0 and allowed just 13 points all season.

6. The school claims 14 National Championships in football but just one Heisman Trophy winner. Running back Mark Ingram, now with the New Orleans Saints, won the award in 2009. To give you an idea of how loaded Alabama teams are now, Ingram's backup, Trent Richardson, was a Heisman finalist in 2011 and was picked third overall in the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns.

5. Alabama has a "Million Dollar Band." According to Alabama's website, the school's marching band struggled to raise enough money to travel to the football team's road games in 1922. Often, the band would have to ride to away games in a day coach. As the band members began to make more money through successful fundraisers, they were able to travel more comfortably, so Alabama alumnus W.C. "Champ" Pickens called them by the valuable nickname. After the Crimson Tide lost 33-7 to Georgia Tech, a sportswriter said to Pickens "You don't have much of a team, what do you have at Alabama?" Pickens answered, "A million dollar band."

4. Alabama definitely appreciates a winning coach. The school has a statue of each of the five coaches who have led the Crimson Tide to a National Championship, including current coach Nick Saban. Paul "Bear" Bryant has his own museum in Tuscaloosa.  The museum is dedicated to honoring the life and history of the legendary Bryant, who coached at Alabama from 1958 to 1982. Bryant recorded 323 wins in his head coaching career, more than any other college coach at the time of his retirement. He died of a heart attack in 1983. A crystal replica of Bryant's signature houndstooth fedora is on display at the museum.

3. The Paul W. Bryant Museum isn't the only one in Tuscaloosa. Outside of Germany, Tuscaloosa is the only place in the world with a Mercedes-Benz museum. The town is the home of the first Mercedes-Benz automotive assembly plant in North America. Auto manufacturing is one of Alabama's largest industries. Honda, Toyota and Hyundai also have manufacturing plants in the state.

2. "Broadway Joe" Namath led the Tide to a National Championship in 1964. The unruly quarterback had a record of 29-4 in three years at Alabama under coach Bryant. Before finishing school, Namath would go on to the NFL, where he famously guaranteed that his Jets would beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Namath won Super Bowl MVP as the Jets won 16-7. Namath was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. He finished school and earned his college degree from Alabama in December 2007.

1. "Forrest Gump" was a football All-American at Alabama. In the 1994 film starring Tom Hanks, Gump sprinted through a high school football practice while running away from bullies. He caught the eye of Bryant, who was scouting the practice, by blowing past the players. Next thing Gump knew, he was returning a kickoff at Denny Stadium (now Bryant-Denny Stadium), wearing a Crimson jersey and helmet with the number 44 in white. Before fans learn to tell Gump when to stop, he runs straight through the end zone and into the tunnel. Bryant's character beams, "He must be the stupidest son of a bitch alive, but he sure is fast."


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