Happy Friday, everyone. Plenty to talk about this morning. We open with a couple of pieces on the dark horse contender for Alabama's starting QB job:
Jalen Hurts figures to be a competitor in this contest. Considered one of the top dual-threat signal-callers from the class of 2016, the Texas native joined the Alabama program as an early enrollee. He's since immersed himself in not only the playbook and in terms of college academia, but also as an integral member of the squad. In the weeks leading up to the National Championship Game against Clemson, Hurts imitated the role of Clemson signal-caller Deshaun Watson in practice.
Hurts could have gone elsewhere and walked into an easier situation, an easier path to becoming the starter. Texas A&M made a heavy late push for the four-star quarterback after a rash of transfers left its quarterback depth depleted. He stuck with his Alabama commitment because he wanted the challenge of proving himself in one of the nation's top programs. He saw the success former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had in Tuscaloosa under offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and thought he could do the same.
I am still skeptical that Nick Saban would trot out a true freshman to start at QB, and obviously hopeful that Blake Barnett is as good as advertised. That said, Hurts has some phenomenal tape. He legitimately looks like a running back when he takes off. Cooper Bateman may have a bit more straight-line speed, but he absolutely does not have the wiggle and vision that you see from Hurts. Hurts also appears to have a great arm, particularly on the deep ball:
That's over 55 yards in the air, and looks pretty effortless. His full senior highlight tape is available at the first link above.
Yes, Saban (via superagent Jimmy Sexton) used that one-way dalliance with UT, along with national title in 2012, as a means of securing another pay raise from Alabama in 2013. However, if you read the Forbes piece from writer Monte Burke â who also penned a Saban unauthorized biography in 2015 â school officials willingly acknowledged how Saban, as college football's highest-paid coach, was still earning below-market wages.
Around that time (2013/14), emeritus trustee Angus Cooper II told Burke, "I think Nick is actually way underpaid," shortly after Saban's base salary jumped to a reported $6.9 million. Throw in an approximate bonus of $155,000, and Saban's total-pay output of $7.09 million for 2015 â as reported by USA TODAY â eventually topped Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's pay structure by $82,000 (and change).
But will Saban, 64, make it to $10 million per year? Of equal importance, does he even care?
None of these other 10 dynasties won more than four national titles in a decade. A fifth for the Tide would put them past all comparators. And Alabama, fresh off its sixth straight No. 1 recruiting class, is the 2016 season's favorite, according to the oddsmakers and the advanced stats. Thus, from a historical perspective, the immediate future poses two interesting questions:
1- Can Saban's Alabama become the greatest dynasty in the modern history of the sport?
2- Is Urban Meyer -- with three national titles at two schools and two additional unbeaten seasons in a 12-year stretch -- creating a competing dynasty in Columbus? Ohio State's SRS ratings in the last two years have been above 20, i.e., dynasty levels. We could be on the cusp of that rarest of college football phenomena: competing dynasties.
It's hard to place a value on Nick Saban, honestly. One more national title in the next three years would cement his Alabama run as the greatest in college football history. Something tells me he already knows this.
For instance, last year there were 26 teams that returned 16 starters or more, including their QB. Of those 26 teams, 19 had a better record in 2015 than they did in 2014. Five had the same record, and only two of the 26 had a weaker record.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there were 17 teams that returned 11 or fewer starters that did not have a returning starter at QB. Of those 17 teams, only two had a better record (Alabama was one of them). Of the 17 least experienced teams, 14 had a weaker record in 2015 than they did in 2014 and one had the same.
With all that in mind, the numbers listed below provide a good window into what to expect in 2016. I broke them down first by overall ranking -- Louisville and LSU are looking good and Ohio State is ... not -- and then by conference.
While these numbers are often misleading where Alabama is concerned - guys like Shaun Dion Hamilton, Jonathan Allen, Ronnie Harrison, and Da'Shawn Hand don't count despite starring in significant playing time - Steele once again highlights the pressure on Les Miles. LSU is tied for first in the nation in returning starters while Alabama is tied for 98th. By all rights, this should be the year for him to slay the Alabama beast.
At Alabama? The fans are demonstrably more engaged. Average attendance has shot up from 10,177 last year to 12,863 this season. Coleman Coliseum, capacity 15,316, is sold out for Saturday’s visit from Mississippi State. That’s the fifth sellout of the year, the first time the Tide has sold out that many games in a season since 2006-07. Avery Johnson is the difference. The underwhelming backup plan might have been the least-exciting hire in the SEC last year, but he’s having the fastest impact.
Avery is getting all sorts of well-deserved love right now. As mentioned in this piece, he was hardly a splashy hire. In fact, the announcement came with a heavy dose of skepticism from many Alabama fans who wondered how the Little General would transition to the college game and particularly in the area of recruiting. Questions answered.
Now, before I start to come off as Kanye West here, let me make it clear: the credit for Alabama's success on the court the season lies with the coaches, players, administration officials, and fans at Alabama. But creating a winning program begins with a desire to win. For many years, that desire simply wasn't a part of the DNA of the Alabama fan base when it came to basketball.
Cut to Bruce Pearl de-boarding a plane in Auburn and capturing the attention of the entire nation.
You'd think Matt would have been covering Alabama sports long enough to know what he just did. I wouldn't want to see his inbox right now.
Now the question becomes where he goes from here. Whether he takes over for Geno Matias-Smith at safety or Cyrus Jones at corner, Fitzpatrick will shoulder more responsibility as a sophomore, which is worth keeping an eye on.
This was the beauty of the secondary strategy under Mel Tucker that I hope Pruitt and Ansley continue. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Eddie Jackson would routinely transition from corner to safety in response to the offensive formation. This type of versatility has to be hell on an opposing quarterback.
Why schedule it? Another rule for my scheduling philosophy: Any thrilling national championship game must produce a rematch within two years. Sure, Deshaun Watson may be gone by 2017. But any chance to watch elite programs with contrasting styles is worth seeing again. Clemson and Auburn are playing again in 2016 and 2017, meaning they will play six times over 11 years. Clemson and Auburn are going to play each other more frequently than they play some conference opponents. Clemson has the wrong opponent from Alabama. There are only so many times you can say Clemson is Auburn with a lake.
Added bonus: Put the first game of this two-year series in Tuscaloosa so Dabo Swinney experiences the uncomfortable feeling of returning home. Turnabout is fair play since Nick Saban looked uncomfortable at the national championship press conference as an afterthought to Swinney.
Double added bonus: If Swinney is coaching Alabama in 2017, he gets to face the program he resurrected from mediocrity. Plus, Swinney can sell his trademarked "Bring Your Own Guts" memorabilia to two fan bases.
Saban was an afterthought to Swinney, eh? Who knew? In any case, the writer would also like to see us stomp the Fighting Harbaughs.
In all seriousness, Lacy appears determined to lose some of the weight he was playing with in 2015. Soon after McCarthy's comments, NFL Media reported Lacy's goal was to lose about 30 pounds. Green Bay Press-Gazette's Ryan Wood, who spoke with Sirmans, writes it "sounds like Eddie Lacy is taking offseason seriously." His coaches seemed pleased with his progress as well.
Nice phrasing, coach.
If you ever wanted to know what investing millions of dollars in fool’s gold feels like, ask the athletics department at Auburn or Texas A&M. The reasons for both programs’ irrational investing aren’t difficult to discern. Each has proud fan bases that vehemently want to stick it to their in-state big brother, and both needed splash hires (Auburn) and extensions (A&M) after falling short of lofty goals set after getting a taste of what it feels like to be the man locally. This leads wealthy alumni into rash decisions like forcing hires, firings and silly extensions.
That's what we call spittin' fire. I will be surprised if Gus is still around beyond next season.
- Let's review Tennessee's past week.
- Wednesday, former four-star DT Alexis Johnson was arrested and suspended after a domestic incident, during which a witness says the 295-pounder appeared to be punching and choking a woman.
- A recent Vol lineman is accused of attempting to send adult material to a person he believed to be a 14-year-old.
- A UT and NFL veteran was arrested for a January bar fight.
- A federal lawsuit by six students accuses five players in various sports of rape and the school's administration of especially indifferent responses.
- And there's the reemergence of Peyton Manning's 1990s allegation, which has become as much a story about the Manning family's reaction as the event itself.
At least they're all accustomed to wearing orange.
College football games cause rape. That's the conclusion three economists have reached after studying the effects Division 1A football game days have on increased instances of sexual assault. A study was performed looking at what degree events that intensify partying and alcohol consumption -- specifically Division 1A college football games -- increase sexual assaults. Their results were shocking. The economists found that home football games increase reports of rape by 41 percent on the day of the game while away games increase reports by 15 percent.
The latest edition of "ways to demonize college football." No, football does not cause rape. People often consume large amounts of alcohol during football games which may lead to awful behavior, but football is hardly unique in that regard.
Last but not least, the jerk of the week:
"The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and [another] fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount. And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base."
I mean, we can't have a commoner sitting among the elite. They might cheer excessively or something.
That should be enough for today. Have a fabulous weekend.