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Jumbo Package: Nine days out, and everyone's got an opinion on Alabama's QB and Secondary

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Nine days from kickoff, and analyses and news are flying off the shelves.

Ryan Anderson wants to smash him into itsy bitsy Utah bits. You can just tell.
Ryan Anderson wants to smash him into itsy bitsy Utah bits. You can just tell.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Recruiting

Family ties helped 4-star OL Kendall Randolph choose Alabama

Though Randolph plays tackle in high school, he may move inside for the Tide. "They’re recruiting me as a guard and tackle," he said. "I feel comfortable playing any position that a coach needs me to play. Guard, tackle, center, even on the defensive side of the ball — wherever they need me to play, I feel I can contribute on the team … "Wherever Coach needs me to play, I’m going to get the job done. Roll Tide."

Levi Randolph's kid brother makes me smile. This kind of enthusiasm for playing at Alabama is infectious.

Gambler's Fallacy

There are a whole lot hot takes out there this season about teams being due. Just today, two national pundits succumbed to the gambler's fallacy, and LOLZ were had all around. (Also, what depth? Tennessee's issue is that they have no depth. And, Herbie just can't stop drinking the Gus Malzahn Kool Aid -- OOOOH, YEAAAAH!)

5 reasons the Tennessee Volunteers can win the 2016 college football playoff | FOX Sports

The stability is there, the talent and depth are there, the division is down, and the schedule (with Florida and Alabama at home) is in the Vols' favor. Vols fans have been waiting a long time for this kind of perfect storm -- for the right coach and the right players and the right circumstances -- and it finally feels like we’re there. After all the embarrassment of the past decade -- the Phillip Fulmer firing, the (brief) Lane Kiffin era and the everything-that-could-go-wrong-did Derek Dooley years -- it’s finally Tennessee’s time. The Vols won't compete just for an SEC crown in 2016; they can end up as the best team in college football.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit explains why he picked Auburn as sleeper to win SEC | AL.com

"I think if you look at (Auburn being 6-10 in SEC play the last two years) and you look at the roster and you look who they have at quarterback, I can see why the media said that this team's not going to compete," Herbstreit said on a conference call Wednesday. "Even in the backfield with the tailback situation. For me it's more of I think the defense is going to be really, really good. I think they're going to play with a chip on their shoulder. I think they're going to be mad at the world when they play this year. "I think defensively they're going to stay in almost every game that they play and then it's just a matter of the head coach, Gus Malzahn, and the offense finding ways to put enough points up on the board to win."

Dreamy Lane Kiffin

Southern Cal OC Tee Martin: 'Lane (Kiffin) pretty much adopted what we do on offense' | AL.com

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will be a big story leading up to the game as he will face the team he coached before being fired. "It'll be interesting to watch," Martin said of Kiffin. "A couple of years ago, Lane pretty much adopted what we do on offense. From how they get plays in, the way their mechanics on offense, Alabama and Lane pretty much adopted what we do here at Southern Cal. "We're friends. A lot of us talk. Over the years, we have shared ideas. The Alabama defensive staff came out and visited with our defensive staff last year. We're familiar with a lot of what they do, and they are familiar with what we do."

Ummmm, Tee. Lane Kiffin didn't "adopt what you do out at SC." Lane Kiffin built the offense that SC uses (with an assist by Sark.) Only a Vawl could say something this dumb.

Speaking of Sarkisian, he is by all accounts cleaning up very well after his battle with alcoholism, and is ready to get back into coaching. Everyone knows the life of the party or the good time girl who, for whatever reason, just can't put the glass of whiskey down despite the potential legal, vocational, financial, interpersonal and health consequences. Addiction takes a helluva toll on the person fighting that war, and it's equally, though differently painful to their friends and loved ones. Best wishes to Coach Sark.

Who needs a scrappy underdog?

Alabama Crimson Tide, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, USC Trojans lead the list of college football blue bloods

What are the most important programs in the history of college football? It's a thorny, fun, fascinating question that we posed to 12 of our writers. We asked them to rate every current FBS program on a scale of 1-10, based on each school's overall impact on the history of college football. The rankings below list the school, then their average score. The top five finished with unanimous 10 scores, and we rounded up from 9.5 for those that just missed a perfect score. The end result? Eight schools qualify for what we're calling blue bloods -- the royalty of the game.

The metrics are all over the place. For instance, they only count AP polls for Alabama, but use Ohio State's seven Heismans as an indicator. Huh?! Still, Alabama is No. 1 (tied with four others, and you can probably rattle off whom without even looking.)

This is never going to change: College students are not employees; stop litigating it

Labor board again prevents student-athletes from being considered employees

While the players were found to be employees at the regional level, the board ultimately rejected the players' bid to unionize. Instead of offering an opinion on whether the football student-athletes were, in fact, employees, the board instead steered the explanation in another direction; that allowing football student-athletes at Northwestern to form a union would foster instability in college athletics where some student-athletes would be able to form a union while others would not.

Is. Not. Going. To. Happen. Ever. (And I think I called this back in 2014, after that ghastly piece of administrative jiggery-pokery out of Chicago.)

The NFL is supposed to be harder, right?

Derrick Henry still turning heads in Titans preseason

Three weeks into preseason, running back Derrick Henry is still drawing rave reviews from his coaches in Tennessee. The Titans’ 2016 second-round draft pick continues to show he is ready for the next level, proving he can handle the rigors of the Titans’ offensive game plan and help the team’s revamped running game. So far, the former Alabama product has been everything as advertised – with still some room to grow. While the rookie is still listed as the second back on the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray, his preseason showing could lead to a split in carries, and a better offense than the one Tennessee showed much of last season.

Henry averaged six yards a carry in college. So far, in his pro career, he's averaging seven yards a tote.

I know, I know, it's the preseason, and he's only had 17 carries, but let the big man eat.

Alabama notes

The offensive and defensive 'X-factors' for Alabama in 2016

Foster, who redshirted in 2013 and saw limited action in 2014, should be a threat on the outside with his combination of speed and ability. Of note is that during his lone media appearance of the regular season earlier this month, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin stressed these points and more about Foster, calling his skill set "special." If Foster stays healthy, he has the potential to put up some big numbers.

Bold college football predictions: Get ready for a wild Week 1 | Sporting News

This game is not in Tuscaloosa, USC has nothing to lose as a 10-point underdog and offensive coordinator Tee Martin will have more tricks up his sleeve than former USC offensive coordinator — and current Alabama OC — Lane Kiffin. Unless Kiffin deviates from his predictable and safe playcalling for his new quarterback, especially in that quarterback's first game, bubble screens will be the doom of Alabama's offense. Score: USC 38, Alabama 33

(LOL, Alabama ain't giving up 38 points to a pro-style offense.)

Alabama's Secondary Depth: Issue or Status Quo - Team Speed Kills

Despotic personality portrayals aside, Saban is not one for putting his players in a position to take on too much responsibility too soon and the same can be said for asking Fitzpatrick to play two different roles in the secondary. Yet, Saban seems oddly comfortable in allowing him to do it.

By all accounts, Fitzpatrick is a cerebral player with a nose for the football no matter his position on the field. The real question is whether Averett will maintain his spot on the edge once Tony Brown has served his four-to-six-game suspension. Once upon a time, Brown was the most promising of all corners on the team when he came on as a true freshman in 2014. He even started a couple of games when Bradley Sylve and Eddie Jackson were struggling. Since, Brown, himself, has struggled both on and off the field, including being sent him home prior to the Cotton Bowl. While the talent and speed is there, it is seemingly Brown's lack of discipline that is getting in the way of his starting for the Tide.

I really liked this piece from the outside, looking in. Sometimes we're just too close. And, while there are a lot of dumb opinions from those outside the program, this is a well-reasoned look at the secondary.

Alabama practice report: Two injured players back practicing | AL.com

— Wide receiver Cam Sims (knee) was back practicing. So was inside linebacker Keith Holcombe (ankle). Holcombe wasn't present for the first of the two periods open to the media, but he took part in the second. Sims was wearing a sleeve that covered most of his injured leg.

— Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson was practicing for a second straight day after missing all of last week with an ankle injury.

— The first-team nickel defense was the same it has been. Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett were at cornerback. Minkah Fitzpatrick was at nickel back. Eddie Jackson and Ronnie Harrison were at safety. Reuben Foster and Rashaan Evans were at linebacker.

Nine days out and the rotation is set at nearly every position. TBD are WR groupings (which will largely be a function of which QB gets the nod) and, of course, said quarterback(s).

What in the hell?

Pat Dye: 'Every change (Malzahn) made on the staff has been a positive,' Auburn coaches didn't like each other in 2015 | AL.com

"The coaches like each other and that wasn't the case last year. When the coaches don't like each other the players are confused and who are you going to listen to? Who's got the influence?"

That's not a sign that the coaches don't like one another; that's a sign that Malzahn is second fiddle even on his own staff. Who has the influence? Who do you listen to? The man with the whistle and the biggest walnut-paneled office. I'm calling it now: Malzahn's firing announcement is coming by New Year's.