Happy Monday, everyone, and a Happy Birthday to Coach Nick Saban, who turns 65 today.
It may feel like summer, but today is officially the last day before the calendar turns to November. As children wait anxiously to sweat out a good trick or treat this evening, Alabama fans are doing what they normally do these days during the first week of November: crank up the hate on LSU.
As usual, there is no shortage of hype for this one:
Get ready, Baton Rouge! Next week, we're headed to Death Valley for Alabama-LSU. pic.twitter.com/3hGNSWuySz— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 30, 2016
Just another national game of the week for Alabama. Records aside, this LSU bunch is getting far more respect from the money in Vegas than the Aggies received:
This is a surprisingly tight spread considering the Tide's performance against the spread recently. Look for it to grow to ten or so by Saturday.
Nothing changed at the top of the weekly coaches poll. Alabama remained No. 1 on its idle weekend as the top five went unchanged. LSU, its next opponent, moved up five spots to No. 14 as the Tigers (5-2) had a bye on Saturday too. LSU also moved up four spots in the AP poll to No. 15. The Tide was No. 1 in the AP poll by receiving 60 of the 61 first-place votes. Second-ranked Michigan got the other.
"That's one of the things that we're going to have to do a good job of because we probably don't have as many big guys as we've had in the past, because we were built in the past for teams like LSU who were I-formation, run downhill, very physical offensive line," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "We're going to have to do a really good job with our guys up front. I think we've got some guys that can hang in there and play that type of game."
LSU running back Leonard Fournette ran for 284 yards (17.8 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns in LSU's 38-21 win over Ole Miss.
Fournette has rushed for 670 yards and 5 touchdowns this season despite missing two games and losing another because of Hurricane Matthew.
Fournette has struggled in two career games against the Crimson Tide (21 carries, 79 yards and no touchdowns as a freshman in 2014).
It is no secret that the current five-game streak over the Tigers is mostly attributable to Alabama's front seven dominating the LSU offensive line. In the offseason, we looked at this matchup with some curiosity since this is the lightest front seven of the Saban era. Gone are 315 lb. defensive ends Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson. Da'Shawn Hand and Jonathan Allen go 280 and 294, respectively, though both are extremely strong. Look for 300-pounder Dalvin Tomlinson to play a key role in this one along with the beefy Joshua Frazier.
Of course, Da'Ron Payne is a stalwart in the middle. The next time LSU C Ethan Pocic moves him will be the first.
"I think that one of the things that we have as a goal this week is to try to work hard on the passing game," Saban said, "be a little more efficient getting the ball to our explosive guys down the field, which to me is not just about the quarterback. It's about the protection. It's about the route runners. It's about quarterback reads. It's about timing. It's about a lot of things that need to come together."
Facing coach Nick Saban’s defensive front is a tortuous experience for any QB. Preparing a player like Etling — a Midwestern kid who has primarily played against Big Ten fronts — is no easy chore. So how do you do it? "Run him through a meat grinder or something," Orgeron joked last week. "We have to put pressure on the quarterback (in practice). We have to make him throw off his back foot. Now, he’s not live. We do all of the things Alabama does, but we do it full speed. We match up pretty good. We’re not like them, but our guys are pretty good also."
The QB battle is interesting. Jalen has done some outstanding things as a true freshman, but the drop-back passing game hasn't been pretty. For the most part, Alabama has simply run all over people, with Hurts running for 225 yards himself in the past two games. That may prove difficult on Saturday, as LSU has allowed only 2.9 yards per carry on the season to rank fourth nationally. If the Tide is able to put up 250+ rushing on these guys, you have to believe that they won't be stopped for the rest of the season.
On the other side, Etling really hasn't had to do much. In four SEC games he has completed a total of 64 passes to go along with a mere 19 rushing attempts, and most of those were sacks. Danny is not terribly mobile and has only pedestrian arm talent, so interim OC Steve Ensminger has used the passing game as nothing more than a vehicle to keep defenses honest so that Fournette and Derrius Guice could carry the mail.
Thomas hasn’t ever won either. That will change, he said.
"We’re not going to be the only senior class not to beat Alabama," Thomas said. "
We ran Thomas's statement through the fact checker and found it to be... TRUE.
Last year's senior class never beat Alabama, either. Well, the seniors who never took a redshirt season, anyway.
We'll have all week to discuss LSU. A few more notes for you this morning:
The 4th-ranked Washington Huskies are 7-0 this season and 10-0 going back into last season. The last time they lost was Nov. 14, 2015, in a 27-17 loss to Arizona State.
Winning streaks are tough in this day of parity. What Alabama is doing is truly remarkable.
The SEC has stricter rules for junior college transfers than other Power 5 conferences which include that the player must spend at least three consecutive semesters at the school from which the player receives his associate degree.
Hate to lose a great prospect, but if there is one group on the team that is a bit over-crowded, it's linebacker.
"So I called Nick (Khan), who relayed it to his colleague at CAA. They came back and said, ‘Nick is delighted. Now he’s talking to his wife.’ They went so far as to contact real estate agents in New Jersey, for homes in New Jersey. Then Nick [Khan] called back the next day and said, ‘Call Steve. Tell him Nick can’t do it. His wife loves Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She doesn’t want to move, so Nick can’t take the job.’ "
Tom Arnold has the scoop, y'all. Miss Terry didn't want to move to New York. I can't imagine...
Included in the renovated lounge is a black-felt pool table sitting directly under new graphics that are featured nearly all through the facility, including photos of former UA Freshman of the year point guard Mo Williams as both a Crimson Tide player and posing with the NBA Championship trophy he recently helped win last season as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The lounge also features several oversized leather chairs around a television, a space already utilized by the players while watching Alabama football games on Saturday.
Suttles has some nice photos at the link. Check 'em out. It's great to see the athletic department investing in the program.
That's about it for today. Have a great week.