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Jumbo Package: USC should be a concern to any sane Alabama fan.

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It's hard to overlook one of the most talented teams in the country, who have renewed their commitment to being physical.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Crootin'

Alabama impresses Nation's No. 1 RB

Earlier this week, another news outlet reported Miami was the favorite for the nation’s No. 2 running back in the Class of 2018, but that’s incorrect.

Lorenzo Lingard, a 5-star prospect from University High School (Orange City, Fla.), told SEC Country that he currently favors no one. He has a bunch of schools in the mix, and Alabama is one of those schools.

Lingard attended Alabama’s camp Monday and left impressed with what he saw in Tuscaloosa.

"There were three eye-catchers at Alabama," Lingard said. "The coaching staff is just full of great people. That’s something I am looking for in a college. I like their personalities a lot. They have great energy and knowledge. The second thing was when I went to camp, I really liked the intensity they had going on. That’s my type of style. That’s how I practice and how I play. Then finally, Coach (Burton) Burns, the running backs coach, we got along really well. I think it would be great to be coached by a guy like that."

I have said this time and time again, but whatever Burton Burns is paid (and I'm frankly too lazy to look it up at the moment,) it's not enough. More than any other Saban assistant not named Scott Cochran, this guy has been the key to Alabama's success the past decade, not to mention the NFL-bound running back mill exiting Tuscaloosa.

Alabama, Auburn battling for state's top junior prospect Justyn Ross, now healthy after knee injury | AL.com

The state's top prospect in the class of 2018 is full-go for this season after an ACL injury to his right knee derailed his junior basketball campaign and spring football practice. Justyn Ross, a 6-foot-4 receiver from Central-Phenix City, said he thought he came back too soon from an MCL injury to the same knee suffered last football season, but planted on the knee too hard during a game early in the basketball season.

Working against Alabama is the bevy of WRs the Tide is taking plans on taking in 2018 (4-5.) Working for the Tide is the fact that Markail Benton is our recruiter in the locker room. If P/T is the issue, the odds favor Auburn, even though Ross has said he's willing to listen to out of state schools, again indicating that Ross' commitment may come down to the roster.

Wild, Wild West.

National experts predict who wins the SEC West in 2016 | AL.com

We sat down with a number of national media experts, including Paul Finebaum, Bruce Feldman, and many more, to discuss the upcoming football season and find out who they believe will be the 2016 SEC West Champion.

The national guys have the same mixed feelings that our staff does: Alabama has the talent, but no experience and a bad schedule. LSU has the experience and schedule, but some deeper questions.

Kickoffs redux

Ivy League moving kickoffs up to 40-yard line for 2016 season - SBNation.com

The Ivy League is moving forward with an experimental rule that will move kickoffs up to the 40-yard line in an effort to improve player safety. Standard kickoffs in college football come from the 35-yard line, and moving them forward five yards is an attempt to boost touchbacks and decrease the number of dangerous hits that frequently happen on return plays. As part of the rule change, touchbacks will result in the ball being placed at the 20-yard line, moving it back from the 25.

As we discussed a few days ago, movement is plainly in the direction of eliminating or modifying kickoffs. The more football-conventional of us (including myself, Saban, and I would imagine most of you) do not favor getting rid of this strategic aspect of the game. However, Saban's thoughts on modifying kicks may actually be what wins in the end -- and that's the position the Ivy League has taken.

As a final quibble, I would call Peter Berkes a friend, but he's just wrong on this one -- kickoffs aren't boring and it is demeaning to the sports' rugby and Gaelic rules origins to eliminate the foot aspect of football. Then again, he thinks I'm a grumpy old man, so your mileage may vary.

Young, but really good.

The 10 best offensive lines in college football | FOX Sports

3. Alabama The Tide had the nation's best O-line last season, but did lose some good players off that 2015 squad. Most notably, center Ryan Kelly, the best guy and the leader of the group. Cam Robinson returns at left tackle and he's a dominant force, especially in the run game. Sophomore guard/center Ross Pierschbacher is heady and physical and a guy the staff is really high on -- as are guard Brandon Kennedy and Lester Cotton. Massive Alphonse Taylor started all last season at guard, but his recent DUI has put his status in jeopardy since he's been suspended indefinitely. He had a bad offseason and has battled weight issues and was actually demoted in the spring. Freshman OT Jonah Williams may be the most talented player of all of 'em (with the possible exception of Robinson). Saban and his staff love the 6-5, 290-pound California import. "He's a very bright guy and very athletic. He has really good lower-body explosion. Good feet," Saban said, adding that Williams just needs to get a little bigger and stronger.

WADR to Feldman (and I seem to say that a lot) Jonah Williams is a superstar in waiting on the offensive line, but Lester Cotton will wind up being this teams huckleberry over the next three seasons -- a gifted tackle with great hands and feet, with the physicality, lower body strength and meanness to move inside at any time, is a helluva weapon, and frankly weapons we don't talk about enough -- even here, the home of offensive lineman love.

FTR: LSU is ranked number two (which I'm not buying) and USC is ranked No. 8 (which I do buy.)

The story that won't die

CECIL HURT: Nick Saban's decisions make sense | TuscaloosaNews.com

Just a few days ago, there was reason to point out that every discipline case in college football is different, because every college football player is different. They all have a background, one that coaches know better than anyone that doesn't have daily contact.

Thus, for all the theories about why Nick Saban used different language — including the words "indefinite suspension" — in discussing offensive guard Alphonse Taylor and his weekend arrest for DUI than he used when asked about Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones boils down to this. All are different people, and all were in different circumstances.

Echoing something we've said here several times, Cecil Hurt makes the case to trust Nick Saban's judgment. He's a smart, experienced guy with an almost-impossible babysitter/dad/mentor/boss job who has a good read on his kids.

Expansion sucks

The Big 12 wants to expand after all, so who will it be? | FOX Sports

On a conference call following a meeting of the league’s board of directors (the university presidents), Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Oklahoma president David Boren all but said to Cincinnati, Houston, BYU and all other interested candidates: go ahead. Make your best offer. "The direction from the board to the commissioner," Boren said, "was to re-contact schools that expressed interest in us and to find out exactly the nature of the interest, [and] evaluate what proposals they might make in accordance with their interests." "We've been contacted by a number of institutions," Bowlsby said, "and I would imagine after this news breaks we'll be contacted again."

Goodness: Take your pick of (depending on your source) 2-4 teams from: Memphis, BYU, USC, USF, Tulane, Cincinnati, UConn and alleged others who want to go back to a not-so-benevolent Texas dictatorship, and the Big 12 is in a mess we saw coming as far back as 2009 when Megaconferences became a thing.

Fortunately, this round will not affect the SEC at all. No one is leaving the richest, most prominent gravy train for flyover hell and 11:00 FOXSN1 kickoffs -- we call that the JP game.

My bet? Two teams -- BYU, Cincinnati. Four teams? Memphis, BYU, Houston, Cincinnati. What are yours?

USC should actually concern you. And we mean it.

Pick Six: Pivotal players to watch in the Pac-12

Max Browne, QB, USC It seems like forever since Browne (2013) signed with the Trojans as one of the most highly touted quarterback prospects in the country. His time appears to have finally arrived and aside from an opening game against Alabama, a first-time starting quarterback could not ask for a much better situation. USC returns 10 offensive starters and ample depth. The job is not officially Browne's yet. Redshirt freshman Sam Darnold is still in the running, according to coach Clay Helton. Unless Darnold is a phenom, the Trojans best bet is the experienced Browne blossoming.

USC has a coaching staff built from the SEC's late-90s #MANBALL days. To that, add Max Browne (who chose USC over Alabama, despite being AJ's heir apparent) and an offense that returns 10 starters. Oh, their tackles are also 6'7", with a renewed commitment to running the ball out of the power set. And speed rushing is an iffy proposal at best.

To take this team lightly is to ignore that it is one of the 5-6 most talented teams in the nation, on a neutral field, with a competent coaching staff -- and Alabama is playing with a lot of offensive questions and little front-seven depth.