Happy Friday, everyone. Tomorrow the Tide will look to avoid a letdown against an undermanned, but game, Mississippi State squad that is feeling good about itself following a big upset of Texas A&M. It is a football-for-breakfast kickoff, which tends to contribute to sluggish performances. Vegas is a big believer in the home team:
Alabama is a 29-point home favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The last eight games in this head-to-head series have all gone Alabama's way, with the Crimson Tide going 5-3 ATS over that stretch.
How similar is the Mississippi State offense with Nick Fitzgerald from the Dak Prescott version? It's almost the same. That's actually been part of the problem. Nick Fitzgerald isn't Dak Prescott but the offense still relies heavily on the quarterback, mainly because there just aren't weapons around him. Aeris Williams rushed for his first 100 yard game against Texas A&M last week, but hasn't been consistent enough to earn a starting spot. Donald Gray has flashed talent but also hasn't been consistent. Other than his favorite target Fred Ross, Fitzgerald has had to produce MSU's offense by himself.
The over/under is 55, which adds up to a 42-13 finish. Call it a hunch, but I believe the team sleep-walks a bit in this one. A slow, somewhat frustrating start on offense leads to a low-scoring first half before Alabama pulls away in the second. Last year's game ended 31-6 in favor of the Tide. I'll give the Dawgs a late TD in this one and call it 34-13.
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The two watched some plays together, and Saban said he emphasized to his talented freshman quarterback "the simplicity of 'This is what you're supposed to look at. This is what you're supposed to do. And this is what you should have done.'" Alabama coaches continue to focus on helping Hurts grow as a passer and into a more complete quarterback. It's a big priority, and it's been an ongoing process that's continued heading into Saturday's game between the Tide and Mississippi State. The good news? Hurts continues to improve, and Saban said Hurts has had a "really good week this week." In addition, Hurts will be facing a Mississippi State defense ranked just 104th nationally in pass defense.
"Bama wasn't able to do that with the exception of the one shot down the middle off play-action to ArDarius Stewart." The play put the Tide in a position to score, but LSU stopped the Tide on a 4th-and-1 play. Savage was quick to point out, however, despite LSU's best efforts, Hurts still rushed for more than 100 yards and converted several third-down plays with his running ability. "I think everyone that watches Alabama has the desire to get Jalen Hurts penned into the pocket and see if he is good enough to beat you from there," he explained. But no one has been able to take away his running game."
Another reason this one may be a bit ugly: look for Lane Kiffin to use a golden opportunity to work on the putrid downfield passing game in a game where they will get a little more than FCS resistance. As Savage says, Hurts absolutely has to be willing to use the whole field lest the Tide be overly reliant on the defense. Until he shows the ability to beat it, look for a ton of press coverage with safeties engaging in run support. Even talented one dimensional offenses will struggle against quality defenses.
-- Run-pass options are difficult because you can't read the offensive line. You can tell it's a regular play action with the way they block, but with RPO, the line doesn't even know run or pass. These RPOs came from the high school level originally. "It revolutionized the game."
-- Holly Rowe said 95 percent of USC's plays last game were RPOs.
-- Young people "are a little more self-indulgent" than they used to be. They have to be told how things can benefit them personally most of the time.
Alabama's refurbished its running game with a few luxuries it didn't have in 2015. First, there's a mobile quarterback that's turned everything on its head. In fact, Jalen Hurts' 115 running attempts lead the team. And despite losing freshman B.J. Emmons to a foot injury, there's still a balanced stable without a Heisman-caliber lead dog like Henry. No Alabama rusher averages more than 12 runs a game. This time last fall, Henry was running it 24 times a contest.
More depth and the third element that Jalen adds to the RPOs have indeed been tremendous benefits to the run game.
According to The Indianapolis Star's Laken Litman, Kelly was asked about teams like Alabama, which brought on former quarterback Blake Sims to help the Tide prepare for Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight, bringing on former players for the scout team. Kelly said, "I think it's absolutely ludicrous. Doesn't sound like college football to me."
Poor Brian has had a rough year. Luckily, RBR was able to get exclusive, live footage of the interview:
Last but not least, I certainly hope that all of you are sufficiently buckled up:
"I felt like Avery Johnson, he was just a great coach," Sexton said on ESPNU. "Always, everybody down there had great energy. Communication was great, and they were on me for a long, long time." Petty, another highly touted guard, is a Huntsville, Alabama, native who chose Alabama over Kentucky.
"What drew me in was the way that they welcomed me in when I came on my visit,"Petty said at his halftime commitment ceremony. "Just the family and the way they did everything, they just looked after me." Alabama's 2017 recruiting class currently ranks No. 1 in the SEC and No. 3 in the country behind Arizona and Washington.
Can't wait to see these guys in action.
That's about it for today. Have a great weekend.