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Jumbo Package: Monday, 21 November 2016

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Crimson Tide news and notes.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. With the predictably ugly win over Chattanooga behind them, the Tide can now focus on a four-game stretch that will determine this team's place in Alabama and NCAA history, starting with this week's Iron Bowl. Of course, many were less than satisfied with the offensive showing on Saturday night:

Alabama football: Tide QB Jalen Hurts chasing down multiple single-season records

With two games left (Iron Bowl and SEC championship) and the possibility of four (College Football Playoff), Hurts could become the first quarterback in Alabama history to run for 1,000 yards.

Hurts is averaging 73 rushing yards per game. He is second in the SEC in rushing yards among quarterbacks (Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald is first with 985). Based on the way Alabama runs its offense, there is nothing to suggest Hurts can't get the rushing yards needed to top 1,000.

Alabama Crimson Tide beat Chattanooga Mocs despite sloppy play - College Football Nation Blog- ESPN

With the regular season already sewn up and Alabama projected to be a 21-point favorite against Florida in the SEC championship game, the only thing that threatens to derail the No. 1 team in the country is that team itself. The Chattanooga game represented either a crack in the foundation or a blip on the radar. The difference could lead to a championship season or a late-season letdown.

Four surprises from Tide's win over Chattanooga: Alabama's sluggish performance, offensive line's struggles | AL.com

At the outset of the season, Alabama's offensive line had its share of issues. But earlier this month, it was evident it had congealed into a formidable unit. So, it was shocking to see what unfolded Saturday against Chattanooga's smaller defensive front.

Tide freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, a nimble athlete who has shown an ability to elude oncoming rushers, was sacked three times Saturday. He was also pressured on several other occasions and hit hard in a few instances when he attempted to advance the ball with his legs.

"Sluggish" is an apt description of Saturday's performance, particularly on the offensive side, but the game plan had a ton do do with it. I would invite anyone who came away with the perception that Chattanooga whipped Alabama's offensive line to re-watch the game. Smaller gap-shooters in the front seven will always be a pain to deal with, but they also typically leave some gaping holes to run through. Of course, this requires the offensive team to try and take advantage of them. Alabama's RBs averaged over six yards a carry, but got only 21 carries as Kiffin forced Jalen Hurts to carry the offense.

It's great that Jalen is setting the rushing records, but he still has a long way to go in making the offense click. There were a couple of glaring examples on Saturday. First off, check out the fourth down play on the goal line after the Tide had recovered the muffed punt. The Mocs have nine stacked tightly in the box with their CBs working on an island outside:

The play call is a simple rub. Gehrig Dieter, lined up at H-back, is going to run to the flat as Ridley ties up his defender. This is easy money for a touchdown:

Folks, it just doesn't get any easier than this. Jalen simply needs to flip the ball to Dieter right now for a walk-in score. He is the primary receiver, is looking for the ball, and Hurts sees him. For whatever reason, Jalen doesn't pull the trigger. Luckily, he still manages to find Dieter for the score after running himself into trouble, but he took an unnecessary hit in the process and made things harder than they needed to be.

This next play turned out to be one of the hardest shots Jalen took all night, and once again it didn't need to happen. This is a play action pass. All kinds of things are going on in the backfield, as OJ Howard comes across to give a "zone slice" look while Dieter is headed the other direction in a jet sweep motion. You can see all eleven defenders in the shot as Jalen fakes the give. Note the time on the clock at that point:

The play action works masterfully: the linebackers are sucked up to stop the run, the slot defender is going to widen out with Dieter, and Ridley working at the bottom of the screen runs the safety deep. The result is Trevon Diggs, lined up at the top of the screen, running free across the middle. Here we are, two full seconds later:

Anyone want to complain about pass protection on this one? Once again, this ball has to come out right now, if not a beat sooner. Diggs is wide open, and even if Hurts is leery of that throw for some reason Dieter is available as a safety valve. Instead, the guy who Howard has been blocking to Jalen's right works himself free and ends up getting the sack.

Thanks to the defense and running game, including Jalen's considerable contribution in that area, Alabama can win a national title with a moderately dysfunctional passing game. It sure would be easier if this could get fixed, though.

Alabama football: Tide opens as a double-digit favorite over Auburn

No. 1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC) opened as an 18.5-point favorite over in-state rival Auburn (8-3, 5-2), according to VegasInsider.com.

Alabama hosts Auburn for the Iron Bowl on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

Alabama, Auburn move on from FCS warmups to Iron Bowl (Nov 20, 2016) | FOX Sports

'It's pretty easy because it's a rivalry game, the biggest one of the year, you could say,'' Tide defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson said. ''I still feel like some of my teammates who were here when we lost to Auburn a couple of years ago still feel the pain of losing to them. It's pretty easy to focus up just because we don't want to have that feeling again.''

In general, the Tide has performed well in this game when heavily favored. Expect to see the defense choke the life out of an Auburn offense that can't physically match up.

Keep Winning, Alabama, And You May Be The Best Team In History | FiveThirtyEight

Alabama could surpass Nebraska’s rating if it beats Auburn by at least 32 points a week from this Saturday, in the regular-season finale. That’s not likely (Elo considers Alabama only 20-point favorites), but because Elo guarantees a ratings boost for wins against good competition, the Tide would almost certainly break the record if they beat Auburn by any margin and maintain their winning streak through the SEC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff. Will that make them the greatest team of all time?

Like most things in college football, that’s up for debate. But it is one piece of evidence from which they can build a case. And it’s bad news for any opponent standing between them and coach Nick Saban’s sixth career national championship.

1995 Nebraska is widely considered the best college football team in history, and this team has a chance to surpass them. That's what a streak of #1 ranked recruiting classes combined with the best player development programs in the country will do for you.

From Kenny Chesney to Bruce Springsteen, FBS coaches dish on their favorite musical act

Like the College Football Playoff, Alabama's Nick Saban had four finalists competing for his favorite artist. He said his iPod has 122 songs from only four artists: Michael Jackson, Elton John, The Rolling Stones and the Eagles. Saban's musical champion? The Eagles. In fact, in 1994, when Saban was the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator, he went to the Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over Tour" in old Cleveland Stadium with then-Browns coach Bill Belichick. That's right: Saban and Belichick, livin' it up at the Hotel California.

Coach doesn't have time for your indy music. He's clearly a radio man.

Basketball outlook: Alabama vs. Valparaiso | Alabama | annistonstar.com

Alabama leads the SEC with 9.3 3-point field goals made per game. ... Alabama hit 12 shots from beyond the arc during last week’s 77-59 victory over Ball State to extend its streak to 200 straight games with at least one 3-pointer. ... Alabama’s bench equaled Ball State’s total points in the game, as the Tide receiver 59 points from its reserve players.

Good news/bad news here. Early on, the team seems to be settling for the three a bit more frequently than a 39% success rate would justify. Hopefully they will get more looks in the paint as they jell. We'll have more coverage later of tonight's 11pm CT tip. Until then:

That's about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.

****Update: Alabama has its season opener set for 2019, and it's rather underwhelming;

It's surprising that they couldn't find a more prominent team to play in such an event.