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Jumbo Package: Tide passing game still a work in progress; Matt Womack honored

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Injuries, learning curve, blocking have Tide passing game still under construction.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Kickoff-Alabama vs Florida State Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban was ebullient discussing his team on Monday (well, for Coach.) It’s rare to hear him speak so fondly of players still on scholarship:

“I think we have a lot of players on our team that I truly, truly think have very good attitudes,” Saban said Monday. “They’re working hard, trying to get it right, trying to do better.

“I sort of like this team.”

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“Coach loves us,” redshirt junior linebacker Keith Holcombe said, “and we love coach.”

It is always nice to hear things like this: the cold blooded caricature of the sport and this coach gives way to candid, unfeigned fondness and mutual affection. That’s one of the things makes the college game special.

Also in Monday’s presser, Saban noted that the Tide cannot do what it wants to do at the moment with its injuries. There is a balancing act between trying to get the young guys up to speed but at the same time not putting them in a position where they are asked to do too much. Plenty more here.

Alabama’s coaches recognized five players of the week following the Crimson Tide’s 41-10 win over Fresno State on Saturday. Jalen Hurts and Matt Womack on offense, Anthony Averett on defense and Keith Holcombe and Mack Wilson on special teams.

Full stats and accomplishments here.

Holcombe had himself a game. He’s always been a high energy guy, but Keith was all over the field on Saturday. Mack Wilson just gets better and better too. He’s going to position himself for preseason awards and all-star teams by next season.

Deep ball a work in progress:

“We’re still developing our team, so our team’s got a long ways to go. I mean, in a lot of areas,” Saban said Monday afternoon. “We called some passes to throw the ball down the field and we didn’t have very good protection. So, is that the quarterback’s fault or is that somebody else’s fault? Some of the conclusions that get drawn are not fair in some instances.

Saban also said that neither QB had many missed reads, and the game plan was (as many had speculated) shorter by design to compliment the running game. But, still, the passing game is a work in progress: From receivers running the right routes to the offensive line improving the pass protection. Good stuff here.

On the injury front, the Tide is really banged up. Not only is Rashaan Evans in mothballs with Anfernee Jennings, but Joshua Jacobs hamstring injury is lingering -- and it doesn’t sound as though any will play this week. To that add Lester Cotton who got banged up (but will play) to go with Dylan Moses (who may or may not.)

As an aside, this offense is going to be so much better with Jacobs back in the lineup. He is crucial to the passing game, a solid blocker, and a violent runner. In Daboll’s Pats-inspired offense, a sound utility back is crucial. While the Tide has talent in the backfield, no one is quite as tailor-made for the system as Jacobs is.

Injury report and more:

Running back Josh Jacobs, who is working back from a hamstring injury suffered in mid-August, practiced some last week and will do more this week, Saban said.

With linebackers Rashaan Evans (groin) and Anfernee Jennings (ankle), Saban said it's too early to tell if they'll be able to play Saturday but noted that both are "making good progress in their rehab."

"If they have a chance to do some things in practice, there may be a chance that they can play in the game," Saban said.

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Speaking of injuries, Reuben Foster suffered what looked to be a season-ending injury in his NFL debut. It was a career that started with forcing an incompletion, a vicious hit, and nearly picking the ball off. Great news for Reuben: it turned out to be a freakish high ankle injury after being carried off on the cart. He says he’ll be back soon; Shanahan thinks it could be up to a month. In either case, that’s a great prognosis.

Playoff odds, per the advanced stats, have Alabama first, followed by Oklahoma.

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Relatedly, ESPN has got to abandon that goofy, nonsensical FPI. Here were the results after Saturday’s slate:

And, as Bud notes, the FPI doesn’t even predict the spread outcome with 50% accuracy. It’s worse than chance.

On a personal note, I detest those Heather Dinnich segments It’s not misogyny or her being in the tank for the ACC, it’s an over-reliance on this stupid metric for her “analysis.” It’s the same thing as being read a PowerPoint slide: we can see ESPN’s FPI, Dinnich, no need to read it to us as call it analysis. Whether that’s a Dinnich thing or her producer thing, it’s an insulting thing. And if it’s the latter, then she should be insulted as well.

Ole Miss had its NCAA committee on infractions hearings begin yesterday. The countdown to being nuked from orbit begins. Heh.

Big Matt Womack was super nasty Saturday. He registered three pancakes and graded out at 90%, earning SEC Lineman of the Week honors.

It’s fun to see Ohio State become the recipient of a prestigious Bottom 10 award.

Point spread picks for this week, including the Game of the Week: Luhvl at Clemson.

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Finally, the glorious 3rd and 93 play broken down, in all its derp.

Today’s discussion question: How much weight do you give advanced stats?