Best and worst coaches
How flukey can these close game stats be? Nick Saban is a coaching giant, yet he's only 17-14 in one-score games at Alabama. Mississippi State's Dan Mullen (.640 winning percentage in one-score games) has done better in this stat than Saban at Alabama (.548). (This could be due to how talented Alabama's teams are and the only way to beat them is close. Saban has a .599 percentage in one-score games for his entire college career.)
The SEC's "best coach" in terms of close games? None other Jim McElwain, who went 6-1 in one-score games in 2015. I would actually argue if you're in that many one-score games in the SEC East, then the team has some issues. Surprising no one, in the SECCG and bowl game, the Gators were smacked around pretty convincingly. Les Miles shows up here as an effective close game coach, and he should be. With the Tigers paleoball philosophy, he wouldn't stay employed if LSU didn't win a whole lot of those contests.
I compiled each current SEC head coach's record against three classes of opponents: their peers, the teams that were more than a touchdown above them, and teams that were more than a touchdown below them. These records only go back to 2005, which is as far back as S&P+ goes, and they don't include FCS opponents because S&P+ doesn't include FCS teams. I covered the coaches' full resumes as head coaches, so for instance Butch Jones's record includes Central Michigan and Cincinnati as well as Tennessee. Since this is a relative measure, I didn't have to throw out non-SEC experience.
This is a much better, more balanced analysis of effective coaches in the SEC. Year Two did a great job with this over at TSK. It won't surprise you here either to know that Hugh Freeze is probably underpaid and that Gus Malzahn is stealing money at this point.
More advanced stats / previews
Hello! Bill Connelly is previewing the entire country, team by team, and is now on his final conference.
Bill C's lovely data analysis finally hits the SEC. I love his work at Rock M, the Mothership and Football Outsiders and if you've never seen him dissect a team with analytical tools he helped craft, you're missing out.
Worst case: Alabama can’t find a quarterback, and that sets off a panic in the season-opening loss to USC. A frustrated Kiffin lashes out after the loss to his former employer and is suspended. Ole Miss beats Alabama for the third year in a row, Tennessee joins the party, and LSU puts the Crimson Tide away in November. Saban must wrestle with his first season with at least four losses since 2007.
LOL. If this team loses four games, I'll buy a Vawls hat and change my name to Fat Phil. The SEC West hasn't closed the gap that much, nor has the Tide slipped that far.
Finally, let's put 'er to bed
"We have done everything that we can do institutionally to allow the conference to make the decision about whatever they decide is in the best interest of the conference and the SEC rules relative to Maurice Smith. So that is past us now. It is beyond us. We don't really need to talk about that anymore and I don't have any other comments to make about it. We're trying to focus on the guys we have here and what we need to do to help those guys have a chance to be successful."
Saban has made it clear that he's willing to release Maurice, but the decision is not in his hand -- it's now up the SEC. I suspect next year we see this SEC policy completely revamped: Either it will be a free-for-all free agency league that Kirby Smart seems to want or an absolutely rigid, no waiver policy that would greatly reduce shenanigans. I'll bet the latter happens.
Head trauma: Leave it up to us
"It's the players from those generations that are having the problems now. Hamilton said there's a difference. "You know, you get what you sign up for," he said. "You know when you play football, everything has side effects. When people play basketball, they know their knees are going to be messed up later on. Football is a contact sport." Da'Shawn Hand started watching "Concussion" but never finished it. He doesn't think he's had a concussion in his playing days and isn't overly concern with it. "Not at all," he said. "I just go out there and have fun and do what I do. I knew it was a physical game coming out and I like to get physical."
There probably is something to the fact that today's players are better coached, now have absolute notice of the damage of concussions/concussion protocols, and more rules geared to their safety. That doesn't mean the risk is nil, just that it is minimized. Still, knowing this, they at least enter the game freely and knowingly. And, that is their point: Don't take away our game (and future livelihood.)
— Alabama's first-team dime defense consisted of Marlon Humphrey and Kendall Sheffield at cornerback, Minkah Fitzpatrick at nickel back, Hootie Jones at dime back and Eddie Jackson and Ronnie Harrison at safety. — Freshman defensive back Shyheim Carter was the second-team nickel back. It looked like fellow freshman defensive back Jared Mayden was the third-team nickel back.
Mayden and Shyheim are getting serious looks in the extra DB packages. Both will almost certainly play this season if practice groupings are any indication. The Tide could use them.
It's been a process for Foster working back from the torn rotator cuff he suffered last September, but the redshirt junior said Sunday that he's now back healthy. "I feel good," a smiling Foster said. "I feel like 100 percent. I'm ready to (be) the best that I possibly can to help my team and contribute to the receivers, and just ready to be out there." Foster did acknowledge later, "I've still got stuff to do that I've still got to work on (with) my shoulder, but I'm not letting it affect me. I'm going to go through it 100 percent, so it's not really bothering me. I'm going to fight through it and get through it."
Lane Kiffin has raved about Foster the past two weeks, and he has looked great since Spring. I think we can safely reserve a spot for him in the starting WR rotation.
With Derrick Henry gone, will it be sophomores Bo Scarbrough or Damien Harris to step up as the Tide's go-to running back? Watch the video above to see how Scarbrough looked running drills during fall practice on Wednesday afternoon, and the video below for Harris.
RUNNING BACK PORN!
— Saban on Minkah Fitzpatrick playing both cornerback and nickel back: I'd like to avoid having to play a guy at both spots. But if there's anyone can handle it, it's Minkah. He also said that they may not have a choice based on their current personnel and may have to play him at both spots.
— Saban said Calvin Ridley falls into the category of being a "mature competitor." He also said that Ridley has gotten bigger and stronger.
— Saban said redshirt freshman Kendall Sheffield remains a "work in progress." He said Sheffield has a lot of ability but that he's still looking for Sheffield to be more "naturally instinctive."
Sheffield is probably still a year away. It just takes some DBs (most, TBH) a while to adjust mentally to this scheme. This is perhaps why we're seeing Mayden and Shyheim earn reps with the second team dime packages.
And a bigger, stronger Ridley to go along with his hands, route-running and blazing speed is a terrifying thought if you're an opposing defensive coordinator.
Linebacker Rashaan Evans has spent the entirety of fall camp with the inside linebackers -- a position move that occurred in the spring. And the junior has competed with Shaun Hamilton for a starting spot. Having spent the first two years of his Alabama career as an edge rusher and quarterback spy, though, the move inside has called for some adjustments for Evans.
He has had to learn to stop the run on a more consistent basis and drop into pass coverage, but the one aspect of his game that has benefitted the Auburn native is his speed to play sideline-to-sideline. "I think that’s the reason Coach (Nick) Saban put me in that spot so we could be able to do things like that," Evans said. "Right now, I’m loving it."
I love the enthusiasm. Evans always had speed, and he flat-out loves to hit. Take that OLB attitude and physical then port it to the inside and this could be one of the best moves of the offseason, as Alabama looks to get faster and more athletic at the linebacker position to combat modern spread offenses.
That's all for this JP. Have fun, kids!