It is Southern Miss hate week! This is an historic rivalry that has been played 42 times since 1947 with Alabama holding a slight lead of 35-5-2 record. Who can forget the classic 1956 battle when 2-6 Alabama tied 7-1 Southern Miss 13 to 13. What about the infamous 2001 revenge game when quarterback Tyler Watts led the Crimson Tide to a 28-15 win after being upset week 3 the year before. And as Nick Saban said in the press conference, Southern Miss has an explosive offense that likes to run out of the spread formation with 4 wide receivers. Essentially, Alabama is pretty much playing Texas A&m this week. Should be a real barn burner this weekend.
Weekly Saban Wardrobe Watched Presented by Coca-Cola: Nick Saban today is working a pink polo that is a bold and yet very stylish choice post Labor Day. I think his polo choice is very fitting as his team's gain in confidence on the football field Saturday has led Saban to have a gain in confidence in his wardrobe options. I myself also wore a pink polo today, so clearly Saban and I are in complete sync and pretty much the same person. David played it safe and wore a red polo. How boring. Back to Saban though, he has still yet to drink the Coca-Cola bottle through three weeks of press conferences. I'm not entirely sure the bottle is not just glued on the podium and hasn't moved in three weeks. Still though, impressed by the product placement. I think we all know what this is leading to.
Notes from the Presser:
- Players of the week are as follows: Amari Cooper, Jalston Fowler, Christion Jones, Jonathan Allen, Eddie Jackson, Cyrus Jones, Adam Griffith, and Kenyan Drake. Through two weeks, it seems Amari Cooper, Jonathan Allen, and Adam Griffith are the front runners for the famed 2014 Player of the Week Championship Belt.
- Saban said that Southern Miss is an explosive offense that can score a lot of points. Just to give you an idea of the Golden Eagles offense, Mississippi State beat Southern Miss 49-0, and then the next week the Bulldogs gave up 34 points in a win over UAB. Hmm....
- Saban stated that it is important for the team to have focus stamina, and to get better one day at a time and one play at a time. I know what movie he watched as a kid.
- Saban said we take the wide receiver position too literally and only consider how they do receiving the ball compared to blocking and setting up other players. Oh I guess we do take positions names too literally. This really explains my confusion with the tight end position.
- Regarding the amount of screen passes this weekend, Saban said that the plays are more based off the looks the defense gave them more so than an innate gameplan design. It really did seem like every player on Alabama's offense had a screen their way on Saturday. Every single possible offensive playmaker on Alabama's offense. No one was left out. Seriously.
- One reporter asked about why versatility in your players is important. This begs the question does the reporter think its better for players to only be able to do one thing compared to multiple? Anyways, Saban still had an insightful answer to the dumb question as he went into detail about the difficulty defenses have in preparing for a player who can do more than one thing. Because this really isn't common sense.
- Furthermore, Saban said it is really hard for a defense to get a certain beat on a player if he plays more than on specific position. Like O.J. Howard for example; he is so versatile even Lane Kiffin and the QB's can't get a beat on him.
- Saban talked about the popular idea of the "quarterback controversy" as a media and fan drive idea that has no bearing on the team. He went further in saying how when Jake Coker threw his touchdown pass, Blake Sims was the first one to embrace him on the side. What Saban doesn't talk about though is the brewing tight end controversy, as Ty Flournoy-Smith had one reception Saturday compared to O.J. Howard's zero. Okay fine, fine stop booing me, I'll stop with the Howard jokes.
- When asked about his recent production, Saban said that Cooper has always been a really good player. No argument from me there.
- In his usual philosophical musings, Saban talked about how we often focus too much on the shadow and not enough on the tree. What really happens is the tree, and what happens externally is the shadow, and he teaches their players to focus more on being good players then anything else happening outside of that. Technically though Saban is incorrect. According to science, everything we see is some sort of a shadow. What our retina actually takes of visible light in is only a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, so what we see of the tree is really just a portion of light being reflected around the shadow.
- Saban said the pass rush has been "okay," but we haven't seen many true drop back passes. So sacks should not be the lone indicator of the effectiveness of the pass rush, as their are more ways to disrupt the pressure quarterback then just sacks. For example pressing the pocket in the middle, or pressuring the quarterback through financial leverage.
- Saban said it is important for Eddie Jackson to be able to sustain his play through the season and continue to improve his health as he continues to try to get back to 100% health. I don't know if it is a good thing or a bad thing that a guy coming off an ACL tear five months ago is far and away our best cornerback, but I'm excited to have him back nonetheless.
- Speaking of the lack of importance on knowing who the starting quarterback will be against Florida, Saban joked they don't even know who will be starting at strong safety against Texas A&M. It was a funny joke, and yet it brought me more anxiety then laughter imagining a terrifying scenario that Landon Collins is not starting against the Aggies.
- I think we are starting to overreact too much by every move. If you think about it, at every other position we don't care who is the quote on quote starter. Leon Brown and Alphonse Taylor rotate seemingly every drive and we don't bat an eye. And yes the quarterback position is a lot more important then who starts at right guard, but really like every other spot on the depth chart, the player who starts at quarterback is the guy Saban feels is best for the job. The idea that one guy is the starter for the season is a very silly concept with the amount college football teams rotate starting quarterbacks based on performance. We should just accept that Sims is the starting quarterback (as he has started every game) and if Coker looks better he will become the starter. And with the way Sims played Saturday, it is quite evident he has the job currently. I think Sims also proved Saturday that the "quarterback competition being a distraction" doesn't necessarily hold bearing towards performance as Sims has never looked more comfortable or confident in the offense. If you think about it, every single position is a constant competition. We just only choose to focus on the quarterback position.
- We like to joke a lot about O.J. Howard, I even wrote an article last week joking that he was "missing." Still though it is quite concerning that even against a defense that was begging Alabama to throw quick passes and screen plays off the line, Howard still wasn't involved at all in the passing game. Yes he has become a more than capable blocker from the line and the backfield, and I'm sure his route running has opened up plays for the other receivers. That said, when he only has one target on the season and back-up tight end TY Floundry-Smith received 3 targets in very limited playing time, it makes you wonder if Saban and company are just saving Howard for the Florida game or he really won't be a major part of the offense this year.
- A year from now I think ArDarius Stewart will be our best wide receiver. He has always been a great deep threat from what we've seen, and has a penchant for making spectacular plays. But what really impressed me Saturday was his route running and timing in the air. His 40 yard catch from Coker showed remarkable awareness and ability to react to the throw on the run which is something you expect out of a junior or senior wide receiver, not a red-shirt freshman.
- Landon Collins is quite easily the best player on defense, but we won't be able to see him be even close to his best if his counterpoint Nick Perry doesn't grow a lot in pass coverage. He appeared to be the best option at safety because of his run support and experience, but after getting run over on Saturday there are questions concerning how long he will be starting. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Jabriel Washington got more playing time with the first team defense against Southern Miss if Geno Smith ends up sticking at the star position.
- Eddie Jackson relentless in run support, his awareness in the passing game, and his knack for big plays gives Alabama a chance at having a pretty good cornerback duo if Cyrus Jones can continue to improve. Even though Jones was beat a couple times Saturday and had a couple of pass interference calls on him, his positioning and awareness is still solid in man coverage.