Tom at TSK has a nice preview of ‘17 Alabama Basketball. I think we as a fanbase overlooked how good the team defense was for last year’s ragtag bunch. This year’s Crimson Tide has the potential to be among the nation’s best, even with the uncertainty sewn by the Collin Sexton non-drama. And what do we know? As of now, not much. We’re all waiting on the NCAA to get over its gunshy ruling and allow ‘Bama to go forward.
Coach Murphy has already begun stocking up on pitching for Alabama’s deep 2018 rebuild. This will help a lot: Receiving the NLI from the nation’s top infielder and No. 3 overall recruit.
Interesting thing here from Coach Daboll. We’ve still not seen what Alabama’s offense is supposed to look like, nor what it may even look like for next season. He has a developmental plan, and it’s being installed slowly. I’m going out on a limb and telling you that I underestimated the hire. So far, recruiting has not been harmed. The Tide have lost some explosiveness, but that’s more than made up for by its performance in the red zone. Dreamy Lane consistently put out Top 10 offenses that had one glaring weakness: red zone conversions. Going into this week’s LSU game, Alabama had been to the red zone 44 times and had converted 40 times. That was the best in the nation at the time, and is simply as stark a contrast as you’re going to see in one year. So, ya’ know, Coach...sorry about that.
Alabama is starting to make moves on the recruiting trail. Six weeks out from early NSD, the Tide have vaulted from 24th to 16th. It’s a numbers game, of course. “Best Class” algorithms rely not just on the rankings of individual players, but the number of guys teams sign as well. With the Tide back-dating EEs and the fuzzy blue/grey/greenshirt situation of the past two seasons, Nick Saban and Co. are looking at signing just 22 this year. That reduces the margin of error, naturally. And, yes, Alabama will probably cede its recruiting title in 2018. But, as Josh speculated off-line, this year’s class doesn’t have many household names, and it is particularly thin in-state: You have to think Saban looked at this class and stocked up last year in anticipation of a thinner ‘18 NSD. We’re all playing checkers while he’s bored with his Star Wars 9-D chess.
What we’re all concerned about, Minkah Fitzpatrick, seems to be a vanishing concern. He has practiced all week and doesn’t appear to have lingering limitations. But, that doesn’t nean that the injury situation has improved: Now Nigel Knott is out with injury. If it’s not the starters, it’s the depth. Yeesh. Saban updates all the Tide’s injuries here.
Jalen Hurts had his best, yet worst, game of the season on Saturday. He made the cut for the Davey O’Brien award on Wednesday.
All in all it was a pretty boring practice and an equally boring presser. That’s probably a good thing. Alabama did not get too high or too low following the LSU game: it’s business as usual.
He does sound pretty annoyed with the jet sweep though. And, after LSU’s nearly-unwatchable game plan Saturday night, he has every reason to be. It’s a frustrating play for the defense, and is one that Alabama will absolutely see against Dan Mullen and Gus Malzahn.
Hire Les Miles! This would be an interesting fit: Les in Oregon State? Corvallis could do far, far worse than the infusion of talent and toughness he would provide. Exactly three teams play the whole percentage football/defense-and-running game thing in the P12: Utah, Stanford, and Washington — and they’ve all done pretty good for themselves. With an elite recruiter who knows how to build from the inside-out, you’d have to believe Miles could make the Beavers competitive.
Speaking of Dan Mullen, here is his presser for the week.
Off-line, we’ve been talking about how “real” Georgia is. Auburn is arguably the best team they’ll face to-date, or at least has been the last two months. This week is worth keeping an eye on. Kirby’s had his problem with vertical passing teams for, oh, say a decade or so, and the Dawg defenders will be tested Saturday. If nothing else, it’s a preview of Alabama’s likely two toughest opponents of the season...also, the shade is delightful. Auburn merely annoys me, but for Dawg fan, it is an existential hate.
You think the SEC has divisional imbalance? Check out the Big 10: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State — on one side of the ledger. The West is so weak that even with adding an elite OOC opponent, which Wisconsin did not do, would see one of the nation’s most complete, consistent teams still finish on the outside, looking-in for playoff consideration. And they’ve been perfect to-date. Bud disagrees that a 13-0 Wisconsin gets left out, but I’m not sure who they jump: one-loss Oklahoma? One-loss Alabama or Georgia or Notre Dame or Clemson? One-loss TCU, already ahead of them? Maybe even a one-loss Washington team with two more ranked teams in its final three contests? An undefeated Miami team? Nah, dog. If your division sucks, as it has since expansion six years ago, you’ve gotta schedule a marquee out of conference game: Utah State ain’t gonna’ cut it — so let’s not weep for Wisconsin’s fortunes just yet. Now, are there teams the CFP cmte has underrated? Hell, yeah. Let’s start with the AAC’s leader in the clubhouse: UCF.
Is everyone bad this year? Even Alabama? Scoring out individual games would indicate a weak field in 2017. This Tide team isn’t as good top-to-bottom as the fine-tuned killing machine of the past two seasons, to be sure. But, by the same token, 2017 Alabama hasn’t needed to rely on game-changing defensive or special teams scores either. The kicking game has been much better. J.K. Scott has never been better. The offense is healthy and deep. There are two legitimate starters under center. There are damn-near two complete offensive lines that could contribute for most SEC teams. Better yet, so many key contributors on the two-deep are freshmen and sophomores. So, you can make the case that rather than being “bad,” this particular team is just a year ahead of schedule at many positions -- and it is. Outside of the kickers and secondary, this team is built for 2018 and beyond, but it’s still the best in the nation. GUMP DAY ERY’DAY!
Three quick notes: I had writers block the last week or so. It seems to finally have lifted. Sorry about that. Second, all of the Thurs./Fri. games kind of stink this week, so I won’t be doing evening threads for those. Later this afternoon, I’m putting up some odds and lines. You can use that post if you are dying to comment on Pitt/North Carolina. Finally, Wes and Brad interviewed ESPN’s Sr. Writer Ryan McGee for this week’s Podcast. DEFINITELY check that one out. It’ll be up in an hour or so.