First, let's see what Jarran Reed has to say about the attitude of this year's team:
"You lose one game and that’s how people do," Reed said, his voice rising. "People think your season is over with, think you’re going downhill, you’re going to fall off. But we don’t listen to none of that. We keep playing our game."
Was Reed fired up?
"Oh, yeah," he said, stopping for the first time Saturday to make eye contact with reporters. "You can’t tell?"
A lot of good quotes came from Saban and the players after the SEC championship. Guys like Reed and Ragland continue to show just how big the chip on this team's shoulder is. Eddie Jackson even let out a little nugget of info: that Nick Saban told the team, "Haters gonna hate" after the Ole Miss game. This is not a team that will quit on itself or lose due to complacency in the playoffs. The Tide may not win a championship (considering the difficulty of beating two of the top four teams in the nation in a row), but you can bet they'll be swinging until the very end.
Ohio State ran 78 plays in its win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Alabama's defense averaged 67.5 plays per game across 14 games in 2014, after never averaging more than 61.3 plays per game in a season from 2008-2013.
An extra six or seven plays per game added up. Alabama played one more game in 2014 than it played in 2013, but faced 174 more plays. That's the equivalent of about three more games worth of plays.
"Our players showed it," Saban said in July. "So we're going to have to do a better job of keeping our team where they need to be so that we can finish strong."
Alabama hasn't quite returned to the level it was in 2011 or 2012, when it faced 55.3 and 59.8 plays per game, but it has improved. The defense has been on the field for 813 plays through 13 games, an average of 62.5 plays per contest.
The SEC championship game against Florida was one of the defenses best performances. The Gators ran just 45 plays, tied for the fewest an Alabama defense has played since LSU ran 44 in the 2011 BCS title game.
The number of snaps players have to play is important. It's one of the biggest reasons many coaches have been so against the hurry-up offenses. With Alabama switching to a faster offense under Lane Kiffin, we've seen a significant uptake in the number of plays the defense has to face per game. In 2014, Alabama faced almost three extra games worth of snaps. That is a lot of chances for injury.
The sheer dominance of this year's defense had brought that number back down, despite our own offense still playing no-huddle. And wow. Florida only ran 45 plays against them. That is a true beatdown.
After Saturday’s game, Ridley admitted he didn’t receive any advice from Saban, the other coaches or any of his teammates when he became a starter – and eventually, a star.
"They didn’t tell me anything. I just went out there, knowing I was the next guy to play, and did what I had to do," Ridley said. "They all have faith in the guys, whoever’s playing, Coach has confidence in us. He knows we can make plays."
Ridley has been phenomenal this season, and the passing offense would have been an absolute garbage heap without him. He's fast, tremendously agile, and has overcome his early season concentration drops to show some really outstanding hands and body control. I read an article somewhere the other day (I couldn't find it again, or I would link it), that some NFL scouts believe that if he left for the draft right now, Ridley would be in the discussion of the top 3 receivers drafted, with guys like TCU's Josh Doctson.
"I definitely do, every game," Humphrey said in the locker room after the game. "Look at me, why would you not throw at me? A freshman, an All-SEC corner on the opposite side of you, so why would you not? That’s definitely what I think about every time I step on the field."
Humphrey has been nothing short of amazing this year. While he has given up a few more plays than the other guys, he's also been challenged a lot more. And he's only a freshman. Humphrey has a smooth movement style to go a long with his larger cornerback frame, and has show both promise in his coverage skills, and lethality in his run support. Having both he and Minkah Fitzpatrick back the next two years will make for a ridiculously talented secondary.
Mississippi’s best chance to stop Alabama’s seven-game win streak starts on the defensive line, which boasts 6-foot-7, 325-pound Alabama commit Raekwon Davis of Meridian and 6-foot-4, 275-pound Jeffery Simmons from Noxubee County. Six of Mississippi’s defensive lineman weigh at least 275 pounds.
If any of you out there care to watch the recruiting side of things, the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game is always a good place to get your football fix while the Tide is away. Though Nick Saban does not recruit as much in state as he used to, there are still a good mix of players to watch this iteration.
On the Alabama team:
WR- T.J. Simmons- Arguably the best receiver in the state, Simmons is a solid and long-time Tide commit. He has good height at 6'2", and is currently the only true receiver in commit for 2016 so far (Trevon Diggs may end up on defense)
OL- Deonte Brown- The 340 lb guard is a road grating run blocker and also seems to be a solid commit to Alabama
DL- Quinnen Williams- Williams is one of those tweener type players that are too big to be a true 4-3 end, but too small to be a defensive tackle. Think Jonathan Allen, but much less highly regarded. By all accounts, The Alabama commit has been one of the most impressive players at the All-Star practices thus far.
LB- Lyndell Wilson- The 5-star pass rushing linebacker is a priority target for Alabama, but Georgia and Florida are also in hot pursuit for his services. This class currently does not have any edge rushers, and his commitment would be huge.
LB/DE- Ben Davis- Davis is the top rated player in the state, and has long been considered all but a lock to the Tide. However, with Coach Smart leaving, a lot of rumors have been going around that Davis may as sure of a lock as we thought. Getting either Davis or Wilson is integral to this class.
On the Mississippi squad:
CB-Nigel Knott- Knott was one of the top performers in Nike's SPARQ combine last summer, displaying tremendous athleticism. He seems to favor Alabama, but also is fairly interested in Oregon. This class is still a bit weak at defensive back, and the 4-star would help shore up that area.
DT- Raekwon Davis- The 6'7" monster is one of the longest standing Alabama commitments of the 2016 class. After relative obscurity his first three years, Davis has exploded his senior year, and the other SEC schools have started applying more pressure to his recruiting. Davis says he is still committed to the Tide, but is planning on taking all the visits he can before NSD.