Happy Friday, everyone. As you may have heard, Alabama travels to Oxford this weekend to take on an Ole Miss bunch whose predecessors managed to place the only regular season blemish on the record of the SEC Champion Crimson Tide in each of the past two seasons. Every year in college football is a different one, however, and things should be looking up for the Tide this time:
You would have to go back to Nick Saban’s days at Michigan State for the last time the Alabama coach lost three consecutive meetings to an opponent. Saban’s Spartans lost to Purdue each season from 1997 to 1999 and to Michigan from 1996 to 1998. Even beating a Saban-coached Alabama team twice in a row has been a rarity. Besides Ole Miss, the only other team to beat Saban and Alabama twice in a row has been LSU in 2010 and 2011. The Crimson Tide won 21-0 the next time they played, in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game (the finale of the 2011 season).
As a former head coach, Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin knew why his boss was getting a little excited at the end of Alabama's 38-10 victory over Western Kentucky. Yes, there was a fumble that led to WKU's only touchdown and Kiffin is the play caller. But Kiffin also knows Nick Saban was putting his game face on early for Ole Miss. Nothing like some bad plays and turnovers to carry over into the next week for a game as big as Ole Miss. Two losses in a row to the Rebs. Enough is enough.
Alabama 30, Ole Miss 17
This is a reasonable view. The line has stayed fairly steady at around 11 points. What's your score prediction? Vote and tell us in the comments.
Like last season, Ole Miss will need some really good things to happen for them in order to win:
In Alabama’s last two losses to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide has given up the ball seven times while only forcing one turnover itself. Saban said the team is constantly working to get better at turnovers in practice and implemented a drill it picked up from the Patriots a few years ago.
"We have about seven or eight drills that we do that are all very realistic that you can actually put game tape on and see it happening in the game," Saban said.
"We do ‘stumble fumble,’ which means one guy is carrying the ball and he’s got to put his hand down to touch the ground, which is usually when a ball carrier will lift his elbow to keep the balance a little bit. Well, that’s when you can punch the ball out or you can pull the nose of the ball to get the ball to flip out."
--Saban said the combination of all the things Chad Kelly can do make it difficult for Alabama to use a one-size-fits-all scheme to defend him. He mentions the run-pass options as being troublesome and that "mental errors" can't happen against a team like the Rebels.
--Saban said he doesn't think of the impact he has had on college football. He then went on a tangent, making an oblique allusion to the Lane Kiffin incident at the end of the game against Western Kentucky. To that end, he said he believes that everyone in the organization should be "obedient" and that a "chain of command" has to exist and that's the "way it is gonna be."
Last season's game was particularly egregious in the turnover department as the Tide put Cooper Bateman, making his first college start at QB, in a hole with two early fumbles on kickoff returns, including one on the very first play on the game. That not only gave the Rebels possession to open both halves, but also gave them a three point lead in the first couple minutes of action.
Saban often speaks about "eye control" relative to the back seven, and against an offense of this caliber it is critical. Chad Kelly is a great improviser who is comfortable when scrambling and also rarely misses an opportunity to exploit a coverage bust. He may be something of a knucklehead off the field, but on the field he is among the smartest QBs in the country with physical tools to boot.
"I think he has a lot of inner confidence," Saban said. "He believes that he can do it. It's important to him. He wants to do it. We have to trust that that's going to help him develop and do the kind of things that he needs to do. We're going to support him to do everything in this game that he needs to do and if Blake (Barnett) has to play, we're going to support him as well."
Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen is one of the alpha dogs on Alabama's defense. Allen has noticed a level of confidence in Hurts that is not often seen in a freshman.
"I definitely hear him speaking to the O-Line, talking to the offense in general," Allen said. "He's definitely a great leader as a freshman, which is very impressive."
20+ air yards: 3 for 13 for 110 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
10-19 air yards: 4 for 6 for 137 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
0-9 air yards: 9 for 11 for 62 yards with one touchdown and no interception.
Minus yards (screens): 13 for 13 for 96 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions
Hurts has indeed shown unbelievable poise for a true freshman. The deep ball percentage is certainly an issue, but there have been at least two drops mixed in. You generally want to see that percentage somewhere around the 40-45% range. If Hurts gets there, this offense will be even more unstoppable than it has been.
Morales: The biggest strengths are at defensive line and receiver. Those are the two areas the Rebels have the most depth. The defensive line has looked impressive so far, and Chad Kelly has spread the ball around to his capable receivers. The biggest weakness right now is the secondary. After cornerback Ken Webster's injury, Ole Miss is starting a freshman, Jalen Julius, at corner. True freshman Myles Hartsfield and sophomore Zedrick Woods start in the secondary as well. So it's a young unit.
Not only are they young, all three players mentioned are three-stars who are somewhat undersized. Julius is particularly undersized, listed at only 172 pounds. There is a great chance that he is bullied by the Tide's bigger receivers. This may well be the greatest mismatch in the game.
In truth, this Alabama team might be the best Saban has ever put together. At least that's what the numbers suggest. Which numbers? The only ones that matter — the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the game (not to mention the numbers in Las Vegas). In his first nine years in Tuscaloosa, Saban never started a season this emphatically. In its opening two games, Alabama has outscored opponents 90-16. That combined number didn't come against sacrificial lambs, either. USC is a traditional college football powerhouse, and Western Kentucky won its conference last season and finished in the Top 25. The Crimson Tide hasn't been this dominant to start a season in a long time.
Agreed, this may already be Saban's best team despite the room for growth.
In his first nine games at Alabama in 2013, Henry cracked the 100-yard rushing mark just once. In his sixth game for the Crimson Tide, he broke an 80-yard touchdown run in the final minute against demoralized Arkansas in a 52-0 win. That gave him 111 yards on six carries and gave us a glimpse of greatness to come. How many games has the sophomore Scarbrough played for Alabama? Six. His biggest game so far was his third of four games last season when he carried 10 times for 69 yards and a score against Charleston Southern.
Something tells me Bo will be heard from before the season is over.
Again, I'm all for a coach preaching discipline. And I can hear many of you now talking about the "wussification of America," how I'm just trying to be politically correct.
But you don't have to punish a kid or even an assistant coach by berating and demeaning, particularly when that kid or coach cannot fight back because the head coach has all the power. That is what makes a bully a bully.
Here's the bottom line: Saban is a jerk. But a winning jerk. He can treat people like dirt and get away with it because his teams win a whole lot more games than they lose.
And, ultimately, that's all fans really care about.
Nice take, random writer from Tampa.
Bringing in five consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes in the 247Sports Composite rankings ain't all Nick Saban. He has some of the SEC's nicest facilities to show off too. You can't walk 15 feet within the Mal Moore Athletic Facility and not see an All-American honor, championship trophy or bowl win memory plastered on the wall.
Nice photos. The Tide ranks behind only Oregon and Texas A&M according to the list.
The SEC's the SEC," Tennessee defensive tackle Kendal Vickers said. "It's why everybody wants to come to the SEC. It's the best conference in the world. You'll see when SEC play comes. You'll see all the talent that comes out."
Way to go, Vol. Not just the best in this country, the best on the whole damn planet. "Ain't got no SEC speed in eastern Asia, Pawwwwlll."
That's about it for today. Have a great weekend. Roll Tide.