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Jumbo Package: Tide adjusting well to Coach Sarkisian, but which version of the 2016 offense will we see?

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Advanced stats, Sark Week begins, protecting Jalen Hurts, crootin’ and more.

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NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Peach Bowl - Washington v Alabama Photo by Scott Donaldson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

7. Passes into Cordrea Tankersley’s coverage result in an NFL passer rating of 37.7

Clemson’s top cornerback has been targeted 59 times in coverage this year, but has given up just 27 catches for 285 yards, with just one touchdown allowed and recording four interceptions and eight pass breakups. That results in a passer rating of 37.7, lower than if the opposing quarterback was to drop back and throw the ball away on every snap.

Very good advanced analysis here. For instance, Alabama has the edge at both pass rushing and pass blocking, but Clemson excels at forcing incompletions when pressuring opposing QBs.

Sark Week

Coach Sarkisian’s first day on the job. One of the underappreciated stories of this game will be how quickly he can develop rapport with his true freshman quarterback. Sarkisian a booth guy, but I could see hum on the sidelines in this one to steady Hurts’ and give him coaching pointers.

Crootin’

SBN’s Bud Elliot is making a tour of the AA circuits. Here’s what he said about 4* US Army AA WR, Henry Ruggs, from Montgomery (Ruggs is a near-mortal lock at Alabama, BTW.)

"Everyone in the recruiting world knows about Ruggs' tremendous athleticism. He jumps out of the gym. But it was his hands that most impressed me. Ruggs routinely plucked the ball away from his body, and did not have any drops in the four hours of practice Monday."

Sark Week

"It's been excellent," Saban said of the players' response to Sarkisian, who has been part of the staff as an offensive analyst since early September. "Very positive. Very upbeat. Practice has been good. The energy level has been really good. The attitude has been really, really good."

Philosophically, Saban doesn't expect to change anything on offense against Clemson.

I understand you dance with them what brung ya’. But, there are two seasons here philosophically to choose from: Do we get the wing it and faster tempo offense of the first three months? Or, is the gameplan to again protect Hurts and lean on the short passing and running game. I’d be stunned if we see a wide-open approach, frankly — not with this defense and not with this running game. I don’t think anyone wearing a headset wants to see another track meet. At the same time, I don’t think we see the super-deliberate game plans we saw by-and-large against Auburn, Washington, and LSU: This offense is at its best moving with tempo, running on standard downs, and giving Hurts less time to think about the play. Non-standard down passing has been his strength: simplify it, make it faster, don’t give him time to reflect on the moment. Sadly, these are areas where Coach Kiffin did not put Hurts in a position to be successful the last few weeks of the season.

Don’t make him angry

This season, Alabama's defense leads the country in points per drive, yards per game, yards per play, total QBR and just about every other major defensive category. Alabama's defense hasn't allowed a team to register 300 yards in eight straight games and didn't allow a touchdown the entire month of November.

"The whole defense really didn't play that well [against Clemson last year]," Fitzpatrick said. "They didn't really see the real Bama last year. They just saw a little flash of it. I hope this year, we are gonna play right, and they're gonna get a little taste of the real Bama -- the whole taste."

The Tide defense is very grumpy about their play last season against the two-time Heisman runner-up. Fitzpatrick goes on to say that the team is approaching this game as if they lost last season, and are seeking “total domination” of the Tigers.

Yeah, as if you wanted a more motivated Jonathan Allen, for instance.

Tackling is butt

If you watch bowl games, you probably see some of the most horrendous, horrific tackling you’ve ever seen in your life. That’s what I’ve seen when I watch the games,” he said. “We missed quite a few in the (Washington) game as well. Not too many. Guys hustled onto the ball. When we did miss, there was always another guy there. Those are the type of things players have to force themselves to practice. We don’t want to beat them up, but we don’t want to put them out there on the field where they’re not ready to play.”

It is a difficult balance to practice the fundamentals, with nearly a month layoff, when everyone is banged up and tired after 14 games. And, he is totally correct: Bowl games have some hideous tackling. Unspoken though is that there is some very poor offensive line play that has defined the bowls too, and particularly the CFB Playoff games, where only Clemson really looked competent protecting the passer.

Clemson: Serial junk abusers

"The game is so serious and it's so locked in out there, you try to do stuff just to have fun, to break up the seriousness of the game," Boulware told reporters. "People are trying to say 'sexual assault.' People that say that have either never played football, have never been in a locker room and seen the weird stuff. We're together every day for years and years and years. You get very comfortable around each other. I know there's going to be that one person: "Well, I played football and I never did that.' You either sucked at football, you had no friends in the locker room or you were the person that went in the bathroom stall to go change because you were scared to shower with the team.

"We do that stuff just to have fun out there, just to mess with the team. I know none of those players care."

The ACC is beginning to weird everyone out with their whole “fondle people’s junk on national television” thing (FSU had the same nationally-broadcast junk-stroking against Michigan.) I understand giving someone’s twig and berries the business at the bottom of the pile, or while fighting for a loose ball. But this isn’t that. It is, frankly, weird — and not for any homoertic overtures, I could give a crap less — your sexual preferences are boring as hell — but rather for the incredibly invasive nature of violating a person’s dignity on national television. And, for the record Mr. Boulware, Cam Robinson is on record that he very much cares, and as saying “don’t even try it.”

Crootin’

Alabama QB commit Tua Tagovailoa told 247Sports that Harris and him were “on the same flight,” from San Antonio to Birmingham on Sunday. Harris said earlier the week he wouldn’t deliver a final announcement after Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl; instead he’d quietly get on a plane and show up in either Alabama or Michigan.

“Everybody is making up stories, and making up stories I think to Michigan is what everyone is saying,” Tagovailoa said.

Tagovailoa has also said this week that Harris is also his scheduled roommate in Tuscaloosa.

I do think Harris eventually flips to Michigan, and it would be nothing but a business move -- I’ve seen the Wolverines running back depth chart, and I’ve seen Alabama’s. He’s not a dummy; he can look at the depth chart. I’ve also seen that Michigan doesn’t have a top flight feature back, and Harris would be that guy from Day One. Still, maybe Tua can swing the committed-but-undecided back in the Tide’s camp.

Not-so-secret-weapons

One of the most valuable players for Alabama in the Peach Bowl was Scott. He averaged 45.9 yards per kick, but more impressively helped the Tide control the field position game. In the second quarter alone, he pinned Washington at the nine, 20 and four-yard line. The hunch here is this year’s title game is less of a shootout, which will make Scott a big factor. ​

I’m in complete agreement here with Thamel (yuck.) This game will not be the high-scoring shootout of last year’s title tilt. The Clemson secondary is improved, the linebackers are the strength of the group, and the DL is underrated. Jalen Hurts probably can’t go into this one expected to pass 40 times and have Alabama win the game. Likewise, this Alabama defense is an upgrade at most nearly every position on the field. And, a faster, more athletic group, is going to give Watson less time to extend plays (there’s also the matter that a Top-5 draft status has resulted in fewer runs and a more hesitant Deshaun Watson this season: Advantage Alabama.) Clemson is turning the ball over more, particularly Watson, who is working more out of the pocket as a pure passer, and his reads aren’t completely there yet for that kind of game. Alabama will almost certainly avoid doing the same. So, if we’re playing “real football,” and I suspect we will be, then the tried and true things favor the Tide and play into Saban’s preferred brand anyway: defense, running the ball, controlling the line of scrimmage, execution, and field position. JK Scott will be a big part of that kind of game plan.