Happy Monday, everyone. For most, today kicks off the first work week of the new year and puts the countdown at one week before Alabama plays for its fourth national title in seven seasons. There is plenty for you to read this morning, but let's open up with Jonathan Allen's succinct but beautiful sound bite after the Cotton Bowl:
After a dominating showing in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs, the Alabama Crimson Tide turns its attention to top-ranked Clemson and the Tigers' dual-threat quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Check out what the Alabama D was saying after the Cotton Bowl: bit.ly/1kBDr2JPosted by ABC 33/40 on Saturday, January 2, 2016
Damn straight, Jonathan. Alabama does. On to some links:
There is a big video board hanging above the field at AT&T Stadium. Multiple reporters saw an annoyed Cook on there at one point clearly saying after a play of Alabama's defense, "They're f---ing everywhere." A reporter referenced that during Michigan State's postgame news conference, asking Cook if that's how it felt during the game. "Yeah," a clearly frustrated Cook said. "Credit goes to Alabama."
I doubt the Michigan State Spartans care to see Alabama again any time soon.
Ragland is a demanding leader. Teammates call him "Spartacus" and the "General." He wanted a shutout, and he was getting one even if that meant keeping his defense angry until the very end. Moments after Lee and Jackson squared off, Ragland addressed Jackson on the sideline. "We're brothers," Ragland said. "We're going to fuss and argue and fight, but at the end of the day I got his back regardless of what goes on."
This is interesting. No way to know exactly what the dust up was over, but sounds like Reggie Ragland stepped in and took care of it. He is the heart and soul of this defense, and will undoubtedly be extra motivated to go out a winner in his last college game.
Behind Watson, Clemson is ranked 11th nationally in total offense and put up 530 yards of total offense Thursday against an Oklahoma defense that was tied for 29th nationally in total defense. The Tigers are also eighth nationally in total defense and eighth in sacks per game. "It's exciting," Alabama defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson said of advancing to the national championship game. "But it's also like you're ready to work at the same time. Just ready to get back to business and finish out this year."
"What we thrive on is guys who like to throw the ball," Williams said. "I know Clemson is a big spread out team that likes to throw the ball, so I'm going to welcome that. That's my type of game right there." When asked to elaborate on why it's his game, Williams' explanation was concise. "Pass rush. Pass rush all day long," he said. "I know guys not use to all that speed on that edge. Me, Ryan (Anderson), Reggie (Ragland), Rashaan Evans and D.J. Pettway. We've got a line full of pass rushers."
If Alabama shuts down Clemson's run game, it will go a long way in helping Alabama win its fourth national championship in seven years. The Tigers, however, believe they can slow down the Crimson Tide so Watson and Gallman can make the plays they've made all season. "We know we're only going to go as far as our offensive line takes us," Guillermo said. "It starts with us putting the game on our back. That's what we want to do."
This should be the key to the game. Alabama dominated more talented offensive lines in Athens and Dallas, and certainly at home against LSU. The Clemson Tigers offensive line is something of a patchwork unit that has functioned well together and played above its head for most of the season, with Deshaun Watson helping them with his mobility. If they are unable to block the Alabama front more effectively than the aforementioned teams did, Clemson cannot win this game.
The former Dallas Maverick player and coach was in AT&T Stadium for the Crimson Tide's 38-0 dismantling of Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl semifinal. Sporting a crimson blazer, Johnson was on the field after the game congratulating everyone he saw. "Great experience. My prediction was 20-10. I didn't see that coming," Johnson said Saturday after his team beat Norfolk State 68-49. "I was proud of our guys. I had a chance to be on the field and talk to Coach (Nick) Saban and some of the staff members after the game. I had a chance to talk to a lot of the players, congratulated Jake (Coker) and Reggie (Ragland). Just proud of our guys, just really represented the university in a first-class manner on the field and off the field."
All I could think when I saw this is that we never would have seen Coach Johnson's predecessor celebrating on the field with the football team. He really seems to grasp the importance of football to Alabama and the impact that embracing the football program can have on his basketball team.
And the selection committee’s idea of the chalk differs greatly from the view of Las Vegas oddsmakers, who favored the Sooners over Clemson in the Orange Bowl and have established Alabama as a strong 6 1⁄2-point favorite in the title game. No doubt, that will add fuel for a Tigers team that has been battling an inferiority complex at a school where big-game losses are described as "Clemsoning." As Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said after reaching the title game: "Our team has shown heart, had guts all year long. You know, I told them, ‘You ain’t favored to win the damn game, but we ain’t no underdog.’ Everybody out there, nobody believes in this team except these guys."
Clemson is the only undefeated Power 5 team left. They should be confident.
The Tide defensive line is so good, at least two players (Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson) are expected to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft. And it's so deep that as many as 11 make each game's rotation. "It starts and ends with your defensive line," defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. "If you have that many players who play, it really doesn't matter who calls the defense, to be honest. It makes it easy."
This is Kirby Smart being as candid as you will ever hear a coach be. He's absolutely right - when the front is eating the opposing offensive line for breakfast, it matters not who calls the plays.
A good Michigan State offensive line had a big problem dealing with the Alabama front seven. Jonathan Allen had two of the team's four sacks while linebackers Reggie Ragland and Dillon Lee benefited from being able to play without blockers in their faces and totaled 12 and eight tackles, respectively. The Spartans managed only 29 yards on the ground, and it was not for lack of trying. They ran 26 times (including sacks) for an average of 1.1 yards per attempt. The Spartan tailbacks combined for only 31 yards on 15 carries.
"I come from the most screwed-up dysfunctional situation," Swinney said. "You've got violence. Police at your house. Your dad's gone. Nowhere to live." Dabo and Carol were essentially homeless his senior year of high school, bouncing around from friends' couches, the floor of grandma's public housing unit and sometimes just sleeping side-by-side in their car. "I was humiliated," Swinney said. "I was prideful. I didn't want people to know we weren't this perfect family. But you reach a point where you just don't care anymore." Not caring meant not giving up on college no matter what it took. Dad was lost. His older brothers were dealing with similar trouble. He and his mother could hardly afford one place though let alone two. They only owned one bed, which meant they had to share it. They were hustling jobs, milking financial aid and maxing out credit cards that arrived in the mail just to pay tuition.
Great story, and one that I have never heard. Once you've been homeless, I imagine that the pressure of coaching football tends to be put into perspective.
That 2013 class had yet to be part of a bowl win since arriving at Alabama ... before last Thursday, when the Tide beat Michigan State, 38-0, in the College Football Playoff semifinals. "It feels great," junior tight end O.J. Howard said after the game. "Our class hadn't gotten a bowl win yet, but we got it done tonight, so that's a great feeling." "It means a lot for us," junior safety Eddie Jackson said of the Class of 2013.
Somehow it escaped me that the 2013 class had never won a bowl game. Good for them, no matter what happens next Monday.
There is hope, then, for a national championship that will at least manage to hold our attention, because Clemson has the potential to stretch Alabama’s defense in ways Michigan State couldn’t. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was brilliant in a 37-17 win over Oklahoma in the other playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl, and he presents the kind of run-pass threat that Johnny Manziel did when Manziel and Texas A&M stunned an undefeated Alabama team in 2012. Clemson has played with looseness all season under coach Dabo Swinney, who could crush Saban in a dance-off. Swinney has been playing the "disrespect" card all season in order to motivate his team, and since Alabama is already a favorite in Las Vegas, he’ll be able to do the same in the lead-up to the title game. But the key for Clemson will be to find a way to combat Saban’s attempts to reduce every game he coaches into a dreary and emotionless battle of wills. The best way to upend Alabama is to make football fun.
Blah, blah, blah. Alabama football is stale and boring. Nick Saban is an evil villain. Clemson is fresh and fun so everyone wants them to win. Rinse and repeat.
Tyler Simmons, the recruit who Nick Saban flew in a helicopter to see, has committed to Alabama. Simmons announced his commitment late Saturday night. Simmons is a 5-foot-11, 194-pound receiver from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Ga. He is rated as a three-star recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings. Scout.com rates Simmons as a four-star recruit. Simmons had 20-plus offers and committed to the Crimson Tide over the likes of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Alabama missed on Calvin Ridley's brother but picked up a commitment from Tyler Simmons. Simmons has experience as a running back in high school and profiles as a prototypical slot receiver. Look for him to be the jet sweep guy.
That's about enough for today, folks. Have a great week. Roll Tide.