It'll take more than a little rain from Hurricane Earl to dampen BYU's enthusiasm. The Cougars can't wait to visit Alabama.
"It's not coming fast enough," senior linebacker Brad Martin said of Saturday's season opener. `Double-days went by real quick, but this week feels like its taking its time."Like many of his teammates, Martin grew up watching the Crimson Tide on national television. Those were the days when legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant had Alabama regularly competing for national championships - a far cry from last season's 4-7 record.
"I don't care what kind of season they just came off of," Martin said. "It's still Alabama."
Martin admits to having sleepless nights as the trip to Tuscaloosa draws closer. He lays in bed envisioning plays he hopes to make.
"I'm expecting to see some crazy Crimson Tide fans - tail-gaiting and going nuts. It's going to be great being on the sideline and seeing the Crimson Tide across the way and then looking up in the stands and seeing a bunch of Alabama fans," Martin said. "I can't imagine the atmosphere. It's going to be very exciting."
A sellout crowd of 83,818 is expected to attend the first game in expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium. The weather, however, is expected to be rainy and very humid. Hurricane Earl has set up shop on the Gulf Coast this week and forecasts call for temperatures in the high 80s.
"Going to Alabama, obviously, is a big chore. (Especially) to be down there in that heat and humidity," BYU coach LaVell Edwards said. "We'll just go down and see how it sorts out."
The Cougars, who leave for Alabama Friday morning, are healthy. Edwards said the team's injury report has gone from two pages after a particularly tough two-a-day practice last week to less than a third of a page as of Tuesday. No projected contributors are expected to be sidelined. And that includes running back Ronney Jenkins, who has been slowed by a sore hamstring.
"That means that they're wanting to get healthy now, make the trip and play," Edwards said. "We've had a good camp. The attitude was good and the guys have worked hard."
Next stop: Alabama.
"I know about humidity and I know about SEC football," said offensive lineman John Tait, who served his LDS mission in Knoxville, Tenn., and northern Alabama. "But there's going to be some big shocks for some of the other guys, because it's different down there."
Freshman Junior Mahe said BYU's trip to the cradle of college football hasn't really sunk in yet. But, he adds, "I guarantee it will on the airplane."
QUICK KICKS: Alabama. Arizona State. Washington.
Athletic director Rondo Fehlberg is fairly certain Edwards wouldn't want to open every season with such challenges.
"I think you have to balance that with the kind of games that allow a team to gain a little confidence and get prepared for its conference season," Fehlberg said. "And that's always a delicate balancing act."
The scale, however, shows little signs of evening itself any time soon.
Agreements have already been signed pitting the Cougars against Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, California, Stanford, UCLA and USC in coming years. And negotiations are underway for a home-and-home series with perennial power Michigan.
A HIGHER LEVEL: Mahe says the biggest adjustment to college football is dealing with the overall quickness of the game.
"Everything is so much faster," said the freshman back. "You've got to react to it."
The former Brighton High star credits his father, Sateki, for teaching him skills to make the transition easier.
Mahe is expected to help return punts in BYU's opener at Alabama. He's also likely to see duty in the backfield.
EDWARDS ON THE RISE: Edwards enters the Cougars' opener at Alabama tied with former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler for eighth on the all-time Division 1 coaching list with 234 career victories. Edwards is just five wins away from the seventh spot, a position held by ex-Ohio State fireball Woody Hayes.
'BAMA CELEBRATION: In addition to celebrating new expansion at 70-year-old Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama is commemorating the 40th anniversary of "Bear" Bryant's arrival in Tuscaloosa. Last weekend, 50 former players, coaches and guests from the 1958 team gathered for a reunion.
TIDE VS. WAC: If it weren't for WAC expansion, Saturday's game would mark Alabama's first-ever meeting against the conference. The Crimson Tide is 4-6 against Southwest Conference refugees Rice, SMU and TCU.
Former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett, who served a short tenure as interim director at Alabama, arranged for the Cougars and Tide to meet while on the job in Tuscaloosa. He and his wife, Jo, plan to be in attendance.