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Jumbo Package: Tide Prep for Final Tune-up

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As long as the Tide keep winning, this will be your final stress-free game of the season, folks. Soak it up.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. There are a couple of games going on in Tuscaloosa this weekend against what should be overmatched opponents, making for an inexpensive sports weekend should you be so inclined. We’ll start with basketball, as the exciting young Tide team is set to host Alabama A&M tonight:

“Defensively, we have to do a better job of communicating, OK?” Johnson said. “Because what’s happening with our team is they’re looking at the final score, all right? So, they were looking at me crazy in the video session yesterday because they’re wondering what am I so animated about and why am I so convicted about certain things, because, ‘Coach, we won the game and we missed 20 free throws and we still won by a pretty large margin.’

“They’re looking at me like, ‘Why are you so animated, coach?” Because we don’t talk on defense, we’re out of position too much on defense and we have to do a better job of rebounding.”

Sounds like somebody we’ve heard before...

Unsurprisingly, Alabama fans took to social media to debate hypotheticals when it was reported that OLBs Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis have an opportunity to return soon. Beat writer Aaron Suttles was his typical blunt self with one of them:

He’s not wrong. Lewis is a 6’5” monster that will light up the combine. It’s probably a bit premature to say that he definitely wouldn’t stick around for a fourth season with the recent decisions of guys like Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster, but he certainly won’t be around for a fifth.

Your Mercer previews (the ones that exist, anyway):

Marq Burnett: Alabama 52, Mercer 0

The big thing to watch in this game will be how Alabama uses its linebackers on the inside. Does the Crimson Tide continue to go with the experienced Keith Holcombe or will freshman Dylan Moses see more opportunities in nickel? That’s the big question. We should also get to see young players get extra action.

“Just knowing they played (Auburn) pretty close, we know Mercer is going to be a great team, great opponent and things of that nature,” cornerback Levi Wallace said.

Mercer won its last game against Western Carolina by a score of 35-33 and has won four of its last six contests. And although the discussion surrounding the team has already shifted to next weekend’s game at Auburn, the Tide isn’t overlooking it next opponent.

“We’re focused on Mercer right now,” Bozeman said. “We have to get better this week, and we’ll worry about that next week.”

The players are saying all of the right things, but nobody believes them. They are looking to blow this one out early, get the starters on the bench, and prepare for the Iron Bowl.

Of course, to mention such things is enough to make Coach Saban start destroying things:

How did we get here, Coach?

Some other football stuff:

At this point last season, only seven percent of Hurts' throws entered an area with horizontal dimensions between the numbers and vertical parameters of ten and 19 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He completed only 57 percent of them for 193 yards with two interceptions.

This year, however, that section of the field has become a sweet spot for Hurts and Alabama. Fifteen percent of his attempts have entered this region. And 73 percent have been completed for 463 yards and five touchdowns.

That intermediate middle area is something I have been harping on since last season. It is critical for two reasons: first, that is the area vacated by overly aggressive linebackers. The best way to get them to sit back a bit is to burn them. Secondly, that area is where your possession receivers and tight ends typically roam on third down. There has been marked improvement, but there is still more work to be done.

The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide are 10-0 SU and 4-6 ATS this season. With an undefeated record and the best scoring defense in the nation, the Crimson Tide appear to be one of the safest bets in the nation to advance into this year's College Football Playoff.

Alabama is now going off at +100 on the odds to win the National Championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. After a tune-up game at home against Mercer this Saturday, the Crimson Tide will finish up their regular season schedule with a road game at No. 6 Auburn (+900 to win the championship) and then potentially the SEC Championship Game against No. 7 Georgia (+1200).

Paul graduated from Alabama in 1983. Thirty years later, Ryan did the same. Both were somewhat conflicted when Andy signed with Ole Miss out of Trinity High School in Montgomery. Paul went to every Rebels game to support his son, keeping a watchful eye on the Crimson Tide from afar.

“(Ryan) would still go to Alabama games,” Andy said with a chuckle.

This is a great biographical piece. Have to admit, I didn’t realize that Andy is a legacy. Lots of good photos of him all decked out in his gump swag as a kid.

Oh, look! People are being stupid about football again.

According to police, the Alabama fan shot the Auburn fan outside of an Extenda Suites motel around 7 p.m. on Monday.

"The male subject got mad, pulled out a firearm and struck the victim in the thigh and fled," the police report said.

Mobile Police arrested 28-year-old Rodney Alexander on Thursday night on a charge of first-degree assault.

Every. Year.

Hey, y’all want to argue some more about pay for play?

On the surface, it is easy to say these athletes should be receiving more than just the standard tuition, room, and board that comes with a scholarship. Unfortunately, it is far more complicated than that.

Not all schools are making this much money, so the NCAA would somehow have to weigh an even more unbalanced future if some schools were paying players and others simply could not afford to do so.

An even bigger issue might be trying to get around Title IX.

There is some interesting data in here. Based on the NFL’s current CBA that guarantees the players 47% of revenues, Alabama players are worth over $500K per season, well in excess of the value of the scholarship. The average FBS player, however, is worth only $163k by that metric, which is actually less than the value of the scholarship in most cases. That is just based on gross revenue for one sport, of course, and it’s further complicated by the fact that football finances the non-revenue sports.

Peak Auburn alert:

If Auburn loses to Alabama, there’s a strong chance Gus Malzahn leaves for Arkansas.

That’s according to a person with direct knowledge, who requested not to be named, in order to speak freely.

Malzahn’s roots are deep. He’s a Natural State native, played for a smaller Arkansas college and walked on for the Hogs, met his wife in the state, made his name as a high school coaching legend in the state, spent a year as Arkansas’ OC (the less said about Houston Nutt’s willingness to actually run Malzahn’s offense, the better), and went 9-3 in one year as Arkansas State’s head coach.

So, a few weeks back, Gus’s seat was scorching after his offense only managed seven points against Clemson and he struggled with Mercer. It got even hotter when he lost to LSU. He then beats UGA and is headed toward a national title and lifetime contract... unless he loses to Alabama, of course.

Like I said, Peak Auburn.

Kiffin was asked if he takes pride in trolling.

"I don't know about pride," he replied with a smile. "I think it's funny to watch people's reactions. People are too serious. To see fans from different places -whether it is here or Tennessee or Alabama or USC - just to see their reactions.

"I like that I can put something out and make somebody's day."

Lane is once again complimentary of Coach Saban and expresses appreciation for the development in his career during his time in Tuscaloosa. He then leaves the interview and fires off a tweet about rat poison.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.