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Jumbo Package: Is Alabama really this good?

Halfway through the season, the question has to be asked, right?

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports asks the question I think we’re all curious about, “Is Alabama this good?” For that reason, many will be looking to the Auburn-Ole Miss game this weekend to get a handle on both of those teams, and, by extension, Alabama.

Which red-hot CFB Playoff outsiders (TCU, Washington State, etc.) can sustain it through 12-13 games? Here’s a look at some contenders.

This is really cool; the Ags honoring Gene and that ‘67 A&M team. These two schools have so much intertwined history, it’s a shame that one-sided routes have stymied a potential rivalry.

On the injury front, the prognoses of Da’Shawn Hand (MCL) and Trevon Diggs (foot, undisclosed) are looking up. Hand, a key piece of a thin Alabama defensive line, may only miss “about three weeks.” While Diggs may only miss “a game or two.” Barring a minor miracle, Diggs is out for this game. Hand is definitely out.

Bradley Bozeman, who was limited early in the week, is back to 100% and participating in all drills.

About a dozen coaches, including Brian Kelly, entered the season on the hot seat. Others, like Ed Orgeron, have suddenly emerged owing to terrible returns relative to the talent level and schedule. Still others have a long-standing history of underachieving, and results on-the-field in 2017 have made them targets for a pink slip (think Butch Jones.) Here’s how a few of those guys can save their jobs (hint, for Sumlin and/or Jones it almost certainly involves beating ‘Bama.)

Here’s a really nice profile on Minkah Fitzpatrick; the best player on the field in almost every game. Kevin Sumlin agrees, wondering why there’s not more Heisman consideration for the all-everything DB.

Speaking of cool, here’s a feature on the ubiquitous Wazzu flag that has now made its way to over 200 Gameday appearances.

Kudos to the Softball team, which placed third on the Easton All-Academic list. As good as they team is on the field, this third-place finish is even more impressive.

Speaking of the diamond, the Baseball team released its SEC schedule Tuesday afternoon. It’s a fairly unforgiving road slate the last month of the season, with the Tide traveling to Arkansas, A&M, and winding up the season on the road -- in Baton Rouge. Woof.

Is there a bigger game in the SEC this week than LSU-Florida? The Tigers travel to Gainesville sporting a .500 record. The Gators are improbably 3-1, and could just as easily be 1-3. Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, players are calling team-only meetings; coaches are meeting with the team; and the friggin’ AD is meeting with the coordinators. As to the former, a period of soul-searching is pretty common after a shocking loss. The latter, Joe Alleva going over the head coach to directly meet with offensive and defensive coaches, is completely beyond the pale. I can’t recall that ever being done in the midpoint of a season. A few more bad losses by the Tigers and this program is going to implode: from the AD to the staff to transfers to recruiting.

Speaking of buyouts, Bud sees the problem as one where the agents are exploiting ADs for ridiculous buyout sums. I think that’s a short-sighted analysis. Of course, agents are going to get theirs. But, there’s only a few dozen coaches that can lead a Football Factory. That is an elite skill set that demands elite talent and commands an elite salary. The coaches know they have what the schools want, and there is absolutely no reason to sell their labor for less than market value. That brings me to the main point here: It unrealistically portrays these negotiations as ones where both parties have relatively equal bargaining posture. That is simply not the case. Once a coach is on campus, then an AD’s bargaining power increases exponentially. But, until that contract is signed, all leverage lies with the coach, including a walk-away amount if it’s a bad fit. After all, if State U won’t play ball, then University of Y will. It’s called a seller’s market.

And, finally, a A&M-Aggies hype video -- quite clever, especially if you’ve read or seen any of the iterations of Stephen King’s classic, “It.”

Go forth to arms...and legs...and exoskeletons or other appendages as you see fit.