Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Alabama game another
level of football

CLOSE your eyes. What do you see? Chad Owens galloping through the afternoon sunshine? Pisa Tinoisamoa swooping in from nowhere? Thousands of crimson-clad maniacs shouting "Roll Tide!" for 12 consecutive hours?

It's here, it's finally here. Alabama. A sold-out stadium, and Alabama.

Exciting, isn't it? This game is different. This team will be very, very different. This isn't Rice coming in here. Or UTEP or Nevada or Boise State. Or any other recent Hawaii opponent you'd want to mention. This is college football -- Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, USC-UCLA, Army-Carlisle college football. This is live-and-die, guaranteed sellouts, paint the house in school colors, put a giant scarlet letter on the lawn college football. Alabama in the daytime big-time, beautiful college football.

Sit back, football fans, this will be a treat.

Oh, and the game should be fun, too.

Take the most mental UH fan you know -- the guy who signs his letters "Go 'Bows," who has the logo on his car, who has a room full of Rainbow paraphernalia and a green-and-white toilet seat. Then multiply this level of passion by a couple million people. That's Alabama.

(What? There is no officially licensed UH toilet seat? Well, that's kind of the point.)

This, to steal a Vantz Singletary line, is a different animal.

And that's why this game is even bigger than it looks.

June Jones has said that he expects every defensive starter at Alabama to play in the pros someday. Jones is always saying things like this. (I am one of the few people he has come in contact with that Jones hasn't predicted NFL greatness for. Good eye.) But he's got a point here.

This is a new level of talent. Most teams in the WAC have one, maybe two players like this. Alabama has five Pisas, three LaBoys. This is something UH hasn't seen before. This is something impossible to be ready for.

Jones was asked Monday if he had any concerns about playing Alabama.

"They're real good," he said. "That's a concern."

It is. This is the Southeastern Conference, and these guys aren't kidding around. I've seen this happen before. I've seen Nebraska beat a bowl-bound Southern Miss team for no other reason than it was Nebraska and Southern Miss was Southern Miss.

Can UH pull it off? Maybe. But a Hawaii win would be at least a year ahead of schedule. Everything has to go right. Some of it already has. 'Bama is hit with jet lag and travel delays and lack of practice time. The thought of the well-deserved "bowl" vacation that awaits. And the loss to Auburn. At first that hurt UH, angering and awakening the Crimson Tide. But the longer fatigue and frustration drag on, having had your heart broken and season ruined the week before doesn't tend to help.

And UH has a lot to play for. Alabama's bowl game? This is Hawaii's bowl game, a much bigger game for this 9-2 team, at least this week, than the Hawaii Brawl. (Bowl! I meant bowl!) This is it -- ESPN, Aloha Stadium, the most storied program of all time.

This is as big an opportunity as there is.

"I'm having a great feeling about this one," Owens said.

Said Travis LaBoy, "I think we play as well as our opponents, like last year we played BYU. I think we tend to play well in big games against big teams."

For the most part, Jones' teams have shown that, the past two years.

Of course, LaBoy said, "unfortunately it has the reverse effect when we play not so good teams sometimes, you know."

We know. But this game is the biggest, this team the best, these fans the craziest. This is another level of everything.

This is Alabama. At last, a sold-out stadium and Alabama football, 12 national championships, 51 bowls, one Bear Alabama.

This game is different, this team is different. There's a reason we've been waiting all season to see this one.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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