Happy Monday, everyone. College football is back and people everywhere are talking about it. Lots to read this morning:
The offense made some explosive plays throughout the game, but it was clear the unit wasn't clicking at the start. The offensive line struggled to get push, and the group missed assignments in pass protection. Both quarterbacks looked nervous early. The offensive coaching staff didn't do their part to help the players settle in.
But things flipped in the second quarter. Alabama went on a 38-0 scoring run that was sparked by true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts accounted for 4 touchdowns (2 rushing, 2 passing). Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett looked more comfortable after re-entering the game. He threw a touchdown pass to receiver Gehrig Dieter in the fourth quarter. Damien Harris carried the running game in his first career start.
Alabama still needs to clean up a few things, but the pieces are there for Alabama to field another top offensive attack under coordinator Lane Kiffin. This offense could be very potent once the team figures out the quarterback situation.
OK, on the surface this grade seems a bit crazy for a team that rolled up 465 yards and 45 offensive points, but there are things to clean up. First off, the offensive line communication had some lapses at times, though there were also flashes of brilliance. Growth will be needed in that area, along with the development of an intermediate passing game as teams adjust to take away the run and the deep ball.
On the quarterbacks, both guys look ready to be good players while also showing some limitations. Hurts was great as a runner and made two fine throws to a wide-open Stewart, but he also had the fumbled mesh, kept a zone read when he should have given it at least once, and threw an INT on the only play that he tried to move the chains through the air on third-and-long. Barnett threw the ball very well when he came back in, but he looked extremely nervous early on. The pass that he missed to Ridley on the RPO in the first quarter would probably have gone for a big play.
This is why I think a two quarterback rotation could be a great idea for the foreseeable future:
- You are affording both of your talented young quarterbacks an opportunity to get valuable on-the-job training while also spending time on the sideline in each game. Both methods of learning are invaluable.
- Both guys are getting some rest, which is important when running an offense that will be both fast-paced and require the QB to run.
- You have two guys ready to go in case one of them gets injured.
- You have a great chance to keep both guys in the program after the season, and you are showing recruits that a promising true freshman can, indeed, get reps even with a returning veteran at the spot.
Yes, the conventional wisdom holds that there is supposed to be a lone field general, but the talent on this roster challenges many of the norms. Think of a basketball team that happens to have two outstanding point guards. While both can do everything well, one is perhaps a bit better defender while the other has a better outside shot. Nobody demands that a single player is chosen to play all the minutes, right? You might even have some instances where one guy is better suited to play against some opponents, or just has the hot hand while the other struggles a bit.
Yes, basketball is a one-platoon sport. Still, the idea that this year's football team might actually be best served by leveraging both of these young players is hardly far-fetched.
But hey, that's just my opinion. What's yours? Answer the poll and tell us.
By the way, all of those who assumed that Cooper Bateman would start because "that's just what Saban does," still aren't getting it.
This is Lane Kiffin's offense, folks. Barnett and Hurts are Kiffin's guys, and for the most part Kiffin has autonomy in what he does. The news that Sarkisian will be brought in just furthers this point - Saban wants a guy who thinks like Kiffin to shadow Kiffin for a few months to make the transition easier when Lane inevitably takes a head coaching job this off-season.
There was a tense moment on the sideline earlier in the game, likely stemming from the lone big passing play allowed by the secondary:
Meanwhile, some turmoil on Alabama's sideline: pic.twitter.com/Aij7V9kyd7— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 4, 2016
That's definitely not something you want to see, though they seemed to make up after the game.
We don't know if Kiffin, who signed 19 current Trojans, including eight starters, was trying to show up the Trojans. Or if Kiffin read that one of those starters, offensive tackle Zach Banner, when asked by the Los Angeles Times if he had any positive memories of Kiffin, said, "He had good visors," and walked away. But we do know this: On that early-fourth-quarter play, Kiffin sent wide receiver Gehrig Dieter into the game and had Barnett launch it deep. If USC head coach Clay Helton was fuming, he had nothing on Saban's sideline reaction. Saban went over with his palms out and chastised Kiffin.
I wonder if Lane was running up the score on his former employers. He wouldn't do that, would he?
Post game w the game ball!!! #3:14AM-LAX pic.twitter.com/cxQkJ89254— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) September 4, 2016
Hmmm, based on the hashtag I think he would. Lane has mastered the art of asking for forgiveness rather than permission.
The factory in Tuscaloosa turns out pretty much the same model every year, but it sure is a nice car. Top-ranked Alabama played a conservative game and relied on its defense, eventually overwhelming Southern Cal 52-6 on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in the 2016 Advocare Classic. The Trojans scored first and had the Tide on their heels at times in the first quarter, but Alabama simply stayed with the game plan. Yes, some key parts have changed from last season's national champions, but the process is the same -- patience and opportunistic calm.
Mike Tyson made famous the saying, "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth." So what’s the plan when you get punched by 11 people? There is no plan. No. 20 USC found that out the hard way as No. 1 Alabama’s latest Week 1 neutral site victim in a 52-6 blowout at AT&T Stadium on Saturday.
"I think that we had a really good plan for these guys," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I think the players did a really good job of executing it, but we would not have been able to execute that plan if we could not stop the run."
If we're lucky, the drama and suspense of the 2016 season will make it past Labor Day. Alabama owes us that much. At last check, the defending champions were blasting Southern California back to, well, Southern California here on Saturday night. This begs what seems to be a completely logical question: Is it possible to know how the season will end before it barely begins? At this point in The Process, that's a fair ask. It doesn't matter if Nick Saban is dusting off a new quarterback or an empty shelf for a new trophy. It just appears so inevitable so early after a 52-6 dismantling of USC. Saban found his quarterback, freshman Jalen Hurts, who found his way down the field so often it made you wonder why he didn't start in the first place.
Watching Alabama's defense look arguably even better than last season, combined with an explosive offense with two potentially elite QBs, is making college football's ass quit.
No. 6 LSU saved its most physical play for the final minute of the game and was sent home from Wisconsin with a 16-14 loss. Mississippi State lost at home to South Alabama, a middle-of-the-road team in college football’s No. 10 conference, the Sun Belt. Arkansas needed a touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter to beat Louisiana Tech by one point at home.
Alabama will probably receive the full benefit of the doubt at selection time, and deservedly so. But its rivals in the Southeastern Conference, in recent years the most accomplished league in college football, did little to help themselves Saturday. Their struggles were the story of Week 1, along with No. 15 Houston’s victory against No. 3 Oklahoma, as the Tigers staked their claim to membership in an expanded Big 12 and potentially the playoff.
On top of Alabama's resounding victory, two-thirds of the expected gauntlet in the SEC schedule looked rather underwhelming as LSU lost to Wisconsin and Tennessee very nearly lost to Appalachian State. It will be interesting to see how Ole Miss looks tonight.
Michael Casagrande of AL.com has a list of links here, some of those mentioned above are included but there are many more. We also have full game video embedded for you at the bottom so that you get absolutely nothing done today.
Lastly, in case you missed it, the coolest story in college football came out of Lincoln on Saturday. Back in July, Nebraska punter Sam Foltz was killed in a tragic car accident on his way back from running a kicking camp for high schoolers. The Huskers honored him in an amazing way when they lined up to punt for the first time, sending only ten men on the field in something of a "missing man formation," taking a delay of game in the process. There was nary a dry eye in the house:
The University's Twitter account sent this out simultaneously:
We had to take a delay of game, weren't able to get all 11 guys out to punt in time.— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) September 4, 2016
Missing one of them. pic.twitter.com/o3mzXQZqlO
Kudos to Nebraska for a perfect tribute to their player, and to Fresno for their class in refusing the penalty.
Unfortunately, this story will also test your faith in humanity, as somebody decided to rob the Foltzes during the game, very likely knowing they wouldn't be home at that hour. Hopefully they find the thieves and drop them off in the middle of a desert with no water.
That's about it for today, folks. What a start to the season. Enjoy the video and have a great week.