Happy Monday, everyone. We're still celebrating this morning, and why not? There is nothing else to do since the next Alabama football game is 26 days from now and the hoops team won't take the floor again until Sunday. The SEC Championship Game can really be summed up in one play.
When a young man decides to play middle linebacker, he dreams of stuffing the iso play on the goal line, popping the fullback in the chest with a slobber-knocking force that has the poor lead blocker crumbling to the ground as he wraps up the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage and tosses him over the remains of his fallen teammate in what amounts to a real-life Oklahoma drill. That play is old school, smash-mouth football at its finest and the guy they call Mike lives for it.
That is, unless the fullback happens to be a 320-pound freak of nature with bad intentions:
Wouldn't wish this on anyone..... https://t.co/d32txQ50Iw— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 5, 2016
No word on whether a GoFundMe page has been set up for that linebacker's emotional recovery.
Moving on, if there was ever a time requiring Saban to work overtime to keep players from reading their press clippings, this is it. As usual, nobody turns a phrase like Cecil:
Star Wars fans have depleted the supply of Death Stars. The crushing snakes - pythons, anacondas, boa constrictors - all done. So are the vehicles, from Sherman tanks to bulldozers, or the natural phenomena from avalanches to tsunamis. All of history's fiercest hordes - Mongols, Huns, kindergarteners half-crazed on sugary Kool-Aid - have been applied to the Crimson Tide.
There aren't any more comparisons left to make, and there is no sense in coming to Atlanta and going to that cute metaphor shop in Virginia Highlands to find one because they've closed, their location turned into an organic coffee shop with philosophy-major baristas because the neighborhood only had three and needed another.
They're all gone. All that's left for Alabama now is one game, perhaps leading to another game, in which Alabama can either prove it is the multitude of mighty things which it has been called - or not.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I spit coffee at that second paragraph, but he's not far off here. The hyperbole is in overdrive for this team, and the bulk of it is justified.
No one knows how these games will play out, but if recent history has shown us anything, it's not wise to go against Alabama.
Alabama opened as an 11-point over Washington in some Vegas Books. The Crimson Tide likely will be favored over whomever wins the Clemson-Ohio State game.
People scoffed at Alabama being more than a three-touchdown favorite over Florida. All Alabama did was beat the Gators by 38 points.
If we've learned anything over the last 25 games it's that everyone wants ‘Bama until they actually get them.
UA coach Nick Saban hasn't had much occasion to watch Washington before today, but he's seen bits and piece of the Pac-12 champions. He gave his initial impressions of Browning.
"I haven't seen him much. I'm in a little bit the same mode as Coach Petersen in terms of we didn't find out until earlier today that we were going to play each other," Saban said.
"I have seen him play on TV a couple times, and really, really impressed with him athletically as well as a passer and does a really good job of executing their offense and taking what the defense gives, and I think that's why his passing efficiency is one of the best in the nation."
The real threat to Alabama, as was the case last season, is Clemson. You beat Saban with great quarterback play, and Deshaun Watson put up numbers good enough to do it last January had Alabama not taken command of a tight game with its special teams. But don't misunderstand. No one - not Clemson, Ohio State or Washington - is good enough in all three phases to beat Alabama if Alabama brings its "A" game. When a championship is on the line, Alabama does.
The Huskies have also been excellent on special teams. Dante Pettis returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown in Washington's win over Utah, and big plays are a must -- on offense or special teams -- if you're going to beat Alabama. That's where somebody like Pettis or John Ross (17 receiving touchdowns) comes in. Nobody has run the football on Alabama this season. The Huskies' best shot is to hit some explosive plays, get ahead and make Hurts beat them throwing the football.
"This group, we've scored more non-offensive touchdowns this year, I think, than any team I've ever been associated with," coach Nick Saban said. "I think it speaks to the playmaker-type guys that we have, the good job the coaches do putting them in position." This defense, even with all its bend at times Saturday, was unbreakable in the second half. Alabama watched four plays inside the 5-yard line result in zero points for the Gators (8-4) because Florida tried to play man-to-man, smashmouth football with a brick wall. When a third-down leap by running back Jordan Scarlett near the goal line was swallowed by a platoon of white shirts, Florida went to the air a play later, only to come up empty.
Why Tom Fornelli (and many others) are picking Alabama to win it all: All season long, while there was speculation about which teams would win their conferences and which teams would work their ways into the playoff, there was always one constant: Alabama. The fate of Alabama was never in doubt because there hasn't been a doubt that Alabama has been the best team in the country all season. Now, that doesn't mean the Crimson Tide are invincible -- when facing two of the three other best teams in the nation, of course there's a chance the Tide can lose -- but we don't think they're going to. The best team all season will be the champion at the end of it, too. That would make Alabama the first 15-0 team in 119 years.
Diagnosing coverages and blitzes at the line of scrimmage against Alabama is a fool's errand — Saban's proprietary pattern-match cornerbacks, who are playing both zone and man-to-man on most every play and a defensive line that shifts between three and four-man fronts won't give a quarterback many hints at what's coming. The Alabama defensive dynamism on has to be matched, and in a sport where risk is managed first, second, and third on offense, there are few players who can reach that level and not jeopardize turning the ball over.
They are all on the bandwagon at this point, foiks. A 14-point spread in a playoff game is patently absurd.
Of course, some were dismayed that Ohio State made the playoff over a Penn State team that beat the Buckeyes and won the conference title:
This also may be a bit of a course correction informed by what happened last year. While hardly anyone complained when the bracket was revealed last season, revisionist history has not looked kindly on Big Ten champ Michigan State’s 38–0 loss to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Would Ohio State and its 10 players who would get drafted in the first three rounds have given the Crimson Tide a better game? Probably. But Michigan State had the head-to-head, a conference title and a non-conference win against Oregon. Ohio State’s best non-conference opponent was Virginia Tech, which won three fewer games in the regular season than the Ducks. The Spartans simply had a better resume. Had Ohio State beaten, say, Stanford in the non-conference last year, the committee might have had more on which to chew. The message is now clear: Schedule better games, win those games and you enhance your chances.
This is an interesting point. Michigan State skated in on the strength of a conference title as the committee overlooked several underwhelming performances against the likes of Purdue and Rutgers plus a loss to a very mediocre Nebraska and a lucky win against Michigan on the flukiest play you will ever see. Pepperidge Farm remembers:
Indeed, it is highly possible that the committee learned its lesson. Penn State has looked strong late in the season, but a four-game early stretch that included a loss to Pitt and utter humiliation at the hamds of Michigan, plus underwhelming performances against Temple and Minnesota, likely relegated the Nittany Lions to the Rose Bowl.
Wait, that's a good thing, right? The Rose should be a competitive affair and Franklin's group actually has the chance to end the season on a positive note rather than endure the inevitable embarrassment that would have ensued on the biggest stage. Since everyone else is talking about it, go ahead and weigh in. Did the committee get it right? Vote and tell us in the comments.
You may or may not have heard rumblings about Lane Kiffin over the weekend:
Sarkisian, who makes $35,000 in his current role, was standing near Kiffin as reporters swarmed the Tide offensive coordinator Saturday. Alabama coach Nick Saban said on his radio show earlier this year that Sarkisian has been an asset during the short time he's been in Tuscaloosa. "What Steve has really added is, he's very, very well-organized," Saban said during his weekly radio show on Thursday. "I think he has helped organize some of the meetings and just kind of the way we sort of put things together. That has helped the other coaches do a better job of coaching their players through just organizational and administrative stuff in terms of how we do things. I think that's what he's really, really good at. He's done a really good job of that."
Sarkisian’s name has also been thrown around as a possible replacement for Lane Kiffin if the offensive coordinator elects to leave for a head-coaching position -- he is reportedly interviewing for the Houston vacancy today, and Saban is helping him to do that. But Saban’s comments on Sunday suggest Sarkisian -- at least for now -- won’t have to do that. Asked if he would remain in Tuscaloosa if the Tide reached the playoff after its 54-16 win over Florida on Saturday, Kiffin responded, "Yeah, I hope so. If they let me," according to AL.com’s Matt Zenitz.
$35k? Working under Saban, no way that equals minimum wage. In any case, Saban seems to believe that Lane will be around for the playoffs. Fingers crossed.
Check out this recruiting tid-bit:
Five-star offensive tackle and Alabama commit Alex Leatherwood left his official visit to Georgia on Saturday to catch the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, per a Social Media account viewed by BamaOnLine (we sent Leatherwood a text for comment but he has not yet replied).
Love it. Alex may well be a starting tackle next year.
Lastly, this has nothing to do with Alabama, but it was hilarious. What does a punter do when he draws a roughing call that gives his team a first down with two mnutes to play, effectively icing the game?
Why, he dances with the flag, of course:
Unfortunately, he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. He knows why, too:
Oooooo so that's how I got caught... pic.twitter.com/VPuvLWcvFK— Marquette King (@MarquetteKing) December 5, 2016
I have never before heard of Marquette King, but color me a fan from this point forward. Great to see a player having fun. This is a game, after all.
That's about it for today. Have a great week.