Happy Friday, everyone. Tomorrow Alabama will play in what should be a coronation of the inevitable SEC Champion. Vegas has the Tide favored to win by a whopping 24 points, which is absurd for any conference title game. Such a large point spread would be surprising if not for the Florida injury report:
The Gators even had one of their players (right guard Fred Johnson) hurt in a scooter incident this week. The good news is that Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle) could return after missing the last three games. Left guard Martez Ivey (ankle) is expected to play as well. Nickelback Duke Dawson (ankle) is doubtful, tight end C'yontai Lewis (ankle) and linebacker Daniel McMillian (arm) are questionable and wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood (unspecific) is probable. The Gators have seven starters out: quarterback Luke Del Rio (shoulder), center Cam Dillard (knee), defensive ends Bryan Cox Jr. (ankle) and Jordan Sherit (knee), linebacker Alex Anzalone (arm) and safeties Marcus Maye (arm) and Nick Washington (ankle).
Even after everything I just said, I cannot allow myself to lay 24 points in an SEC Championship Game. Florida is the sharp side of this line with 75 percent of money at William Hill sports books on the Gators compared to just 54 percent of the tickets. I think the Gators will find one big play over the top to wideout Antonio Callaway that leads to points and tack on another field goal or two somewhere along the way thanks to the big leg of Eddy Pineiro and sneak in a cover.
Florida's defense has been utterly decimated, but I tend to agree with the CBS Prediction. Alabama is not going to take any chances outside against Florida's excellent corners and will likely look to grind out another methodical victory. Look for the Tide to double up Florida's time of possession en route to a 31-13 victory.
As always, vote and give us your score in the comments.
Unfortunately, the Lane Kiffin buzz is only getting louder:
The "Joey Freshwater" talk surrounding Kiffin - whether true or untrue - doesn't do him any favors. There are questions about his maturity which only seem to be reinforced when he sends out another troll tweet. Add in the fact his tenures at USC, Tennessee and Oakland didn't end well, and it's easy to see why buttoned-up college presidents and athletic directors would be fearful about investing in him. When news reports connected Kiffin to vacant head coaching jobs following the 2015 regular season, those close to the Alabama offensive coordinator admitted he had no shot at getting any of them. The odds were better, they said, that he'd follow Kirby Smart as Georgia's offensive coordinator than get his third college head coaching job that year.
Colorado State hired Jim McElwain after the 2011 SEC title game. Both Smart and McElwain finished the season with Alabama before leaving for their new jobs. "Hopefully all the guys that are involved in those types of things can continue their commitment here," Saban said. "If I didn't think they could do that, then it would be better for them to go wherever they were going to go and we'd just have to do it another way. But that hasn't been the case to this point."
The Tagovailoas are family friends with the Brennans, and they just wanted to let them know that Tua wasn't considering LSU and if Kiffin was to be the next offensive coordinator for the Tigers, they should give him a chance because he has the ability to run an offensive with either a pro-style or dual-threat quarterback. Alabama won the national championship last year with Jacob Coker, a pro-style quarterback.
"The reason why Alabama has Jalen Hurts in now is because he's getting the job done," Galu Tagovailoa said. "But Lane isn't just a dual-threat guy. He's a pro-style quarterback guy, too. I was telling (the Brennans) that he has the ability to coach both."
Great news on Tua, but the Kiffin rumors have to be annoying to Saban. One LSU beat writer doubled down on ESPN Radio:
Honestly, I don't know what to make of it. Kiffin is either headed to LSU or Ed Orgeron is doing everything in his power to troll Nick Saban. Good to hear Saban say that everyone has been committed to game prep, but his last quoted comment doesn't necessarily inspire confidence. Lane's purported interest in going to Baton Rouge for a lateral move is rather puzzling in and of itself. LSU may well overpay for his services since Orgeron is making half of the salary they were reportedly willing to offer Jimbo Fisher, but Alabama would surely have the resources to match if they so desired. Guess we just have to wait and see...
On the morning of National Signing Day, Fitzpatrick's father asked him, "Why Alabama?" The response was, "I want to be coached by the best. I want to be trained by the best. I want to play with the best, and I want to be pushed by the best every day, and I think I'll get that at Alabama more than anywhere else."
That's the kind of attitude you want in a competitor, and this is nice as well:
Alabama TE O.J. Howard named to the SEC's Community Service Team pic.twitter.com/si301RGNf8— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) November 30, 2016
While no one should be delusional enough to think that Saban only recruits choir boys, it is rather remarkable the number of top-notch human beings he manages to find and develop among the five stars.
Unfortunately, we got some bad news on the recruiting trail:
Two days ago, five-star Kennedale, Texas linebacker Baron Browning was all set to make his commitment. He was trending toward Alabama in the 247Sports crystal ball following his official visit to Alabama weeks ago. But momentum started to change in the direction of Ohio State this week. Browning, the nation's No. 9 prospect, announced his commitment to Ohio State on Thursday after delaying the scheduled Tuesday announcement.
Good luck to Baron, and this is understandable. There may not be a more crowded position group in the country over the next couple of years than the Alabama linebackers. Still, this increases the likelihood that Ohio State finally dethrones the Tide as the recruiting national champion.
QUOTABLE: "There’s going to probably be some energy in the building. They’ve lost a few games. So, it’s going to be physical, and I just think we have to stay true to who we are." — Alabama head basketball coach Avery Johnson.
Coach Johnson will lead the Tide into Austin tonight for what should be a very competitive, but winnable, game. We will have more coverage for you later.
That's about it for today. Have a great weekend.