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Jumbo Package: Focus is on Tide’s passing game vs. LSU’s secondary — but will that define the game?

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Soooo much Alabama goodness in here that you’ll think Gump Day came twice in one week.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Texas A&amp;M v Alabama

BILETNIKOFF!

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Sorry we’re rnning a bit late today. Woke up with a headache and by 5:00 it was a skull-crushing migraine. Anyway, better belated than never.

Three things to know about the LSU-Alabama tilt. One, if it comes to a close game, LSU has the best placekicker in the country by a pretty wide margin.

In addition to a stout defense, Cole Tracy has emerged as one of college football’s top placekickers.

The transfer from Assumption College has banged home 21 of his 23 field goal attempts and has successfully converted all of his kicks inside 50 yards including his 42-yard game winner at Auburn.

Tracy has made his last 12 field goal tries and is first in the country among placekickers with 87 points.

SPOILER: It won’t be close. I know Alabama hasn’t put up more than 21 in regulation in death valley since 2002, but streaks are meant to be broken and this is just an awful matchup for the Tigers who have to outscore the Tide with a QB hitting 53.8% of his passes — a stat which included soupcans and Ole Miss.

I’m not the only one saying this: LSU is the biggest Top Four underdog in four decades.

Nick Saban won’t say it, but Alabama is probably going to play like they’re shot out of a cannon: Nothing but praise for players this week and he’s particularly laudatory of the team’s effort, mental state, execution, and self-evaluation. That usually bodes well for the Tide.

“Things have gone pretty well for us this week. Players are working hard. I’ve talked before about how important it is this time of year to play your best football because it’s how you finish that’s really going to determine the identity of the team. I think a lot of that comes in your ability to make some kind of self-evaluation of… I don’t think you can improve if you can’t self-evaluate.

Charlie’s presser transcript and video are here.

Let’s talk about the least surprising decommitment ever:

Rashad Cheney is no longer committed to Alabama. The four-star defensive lineman has decommitted from the Crimson Tide, his high school coach, Jermaine Smith, confirmed to AL.com.

The Georgia native had been committed to Alabama since April. It’s the second decommitment for Cheney, who decommitted from Georgia in January.

CB or Brent can chime in on this one a bit more, but as I understand it, there’s been little-to-no contact between the staff and Cheney since they took his commitment. And with plenty of plum targets out there on the horizon, Cheney was a just-in-case commit in a very deep class for the Tide. Again, that’s just my understanding: I’m not the nuts-and-bolts recruiting guy around these parts.

The frees up a spot on the DL, and the battle will only heat up more for the nation’s No. 1 DT, Ishmael Sopsher, which is what this really is all about in any event.

Not a day goes by in his small Louisiana hometown without Ishmael Sopsher hearing the same question.

“They ask me, ‘Where I am going to go?’” he said.

The No. 1 defensive tackle in the country from Amite City doesn’t have an answer, although he fields suggestions.

“They think I should sign with LSU or Alabama,” he said last Friday.

BOL has their Crimson and Blue Chips podcast up if you want to get caught up on ‘Bama recruiting though.

If the Redksins aren’t your favorite defense in the NFL, loaded as they are with four ‘Bama defenders, then may I introduce a fifth reason: The Packers just traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the ‘Skins:

The safety’s contract expires after this season. He’ll presumably move into the starting lineup in place of second-year safety Montae Nicholson, who had a “small procedure on his hip,” according to Gruden.

Asked what he can add to a defense that ranks No. 4 in the NFL in yards allowed per game and a team that stands No. 5 in points allowed per game, Clinton-Dix said: “My leadership. My hustle to the ball. My effort; you can’t control effort. Being a veteran player now. Being able to go get the ball, create turnovers. Take this team to another level, man, and keep things going.”

It’s almost like if you sign Alabama players, good things happen, ya’ know? One of the most borderline physical safeties in the NFL joins Ryan Anderson, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Jonathan Allen, and DaRon Payne. We’re getting the band back together, man!

Interesting stuff in here from Danielson about Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Nick Saban, Bill Belichik, and how Alabama can exploit LSU:

The problem, Danielson said, is Alabama might be better, which is why he said the Tigers have to keep the ball out of Tagovailoa’s hands.

“A good pass route with a good throw beats great defense,” he said. “You don’t have to be great. And, Alabama’s pretty great. It’s going to be a challenge for LSU, but they have some of the parts that could take this to a fourth-quarter game.”

All Hail, Tua: Devourer of worlds, destroyer of souls. Get caught up on the kid redefining Alabama’s dynasty.

The reporters laughed at the quip while Tagovailoa surveyed the scene. The lights on the cameras brightened and the wind continued to whip around the now-empty stadium. The Alabama quarterback was the show after the show he put on with 306 passing yards and four touchdowns in a 58-21 blowout against Tennessee on Oct. 20. This was a rare opportunity to speak with the best player in college football.

Hello, everybody,” he said. The laughter instantly turned to silence.

That is the power of Tua.

There’s nothing else like it in college football right now. It started on Jan. 8 when he engineered the second-half comeback in last year’s College Football Playoff championship game; a 26-23 victory against Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It has since snowballed through an eight-week stretch this season in which No. 1 Alabama (8-0) outscored opponents 165-31 in the first quarter alone.

The guy that Tua is most often compared to, Drew Brees? He’s impressed.

The Maryland mess is just that: a mess. A Board who wanted to keep an abusive sociopath, a university president who tendered his resignation in protest, a dead student, altercations in the lockerroom between players, political pressure by MD-04 Congressman and the state’s governor. But, the Terps finally did the right thing: Put DJ Durkin out on his keister, one day after the Board had forced the Prez and AD to reinstate him.

The school pushed back hard, and fired Druking without cause over the Board’s insistence, and will instead pay the buyout amount. It will cost the administrators their jobs, of course, but doing the right thing isn’t easy.

What a disgrace. Andy Staples asks the obvious question: Why on God’s earth do you reinstate this sociopath to begin with?

And that still may not have been the most messed up thing to happen in the Big 10 this week.

Here is your practice report: Two players Alabama sort of needs, Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith, are both still limited following a surgery to one and a hamstring injury to the other:

Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is recovering from a minor surgical procedure on his ankle, appeared to be limited. At one point when the other quarterbacks were kneeling and throwing, Hurts stood and tossed the ball back and forth with offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. He also limped slightly as he walked away from the other quarterbacks when they were involved in drill that required a lot of lateral movement.

Coach Saban turned 67 years young yesterday, and the team gave him a birthday surprise:

Yeah, it sure seems like a despised tyrant to me, a man who players loathe and fear.

A better present? Hanging 40 points or so on a demoralized LSU team would probably make him grin a little.

This is hype AF: A best-of compilation of great LSU-Alabama moments down the years. Full disclosure: this has always been my favorite game; not just recently, but always.

The crew at al.com also put together their best-of list. #GumpSoHard

Losing to Auburn gets you fired at Alabama. Losing to Alabama ran off LSU’s two most decorated and winningest coaches in history. For LSU Fan, beating Alabama is a year-round obsession:

However, in Louisiana, where everything -- homes, music, recipes -- feels and looks classically old, the intensity surrounding this rivalry is not. Yes, this weekend marks the 83rd meeting between the two teams. Yes, their first matchup was held way back on Nov. 18, 1895. Yes, the nearly 125 years since have been packed with great moments and players. During that century-plus, LSU has won three national championships and 14 conference championships, made 49 bowl appearances, produced 31 consensus All-Americans and a Heisman Trophy winner, and in 2019 probably will reach the 900-win plateau.

But the grass has always been greener -- or crimson-er -- just two states over.

Living rent-free in Baton Rouge heads since 1895, y’all.

CBS has, what I think, is a fairly lazy take: LSU’s secondary will decide this game. Yawn. WADR, it won’t be that. Delpit and Greedy are excellent. Fulton is sloppy with his technique, but really athletic.
So, who negates the rest of the ‘Bama offense? For LSU to win, it must be the guys underneath who shut down the run, read the option, spy the scramble, cover the flares to Jacobs, read the screens, cover the quick curls to Irv, and then must win the battles up front against Alabama’s OL to force Tua to throw under pressure or in a collapsing passing lane. Those things will decide this game: as usual, winning the battle up front will sort out the rest.

As long as LSU is able to muster some points against the most vulnerable defense Alabama has fielded since 2007, then that LSU secondary against the Alabama passing game will be the difference between upset and blowout.

Jordan Rodgers is smoking so much dank weed — yeah, buddy. Sure. “The eye of the tiger” in Joe Burrow is going to decide how well he plays when Isaiah Buggs is pummeling him and Deionte Thompson is roaming free in the secondary.

“You look at these teams, yes of course they need to run the football, but one team has a game-changer at the quarterback position, the other there’s still question marks about how effective Joe Burrow can be,” Rodgers said this week. “The best thing he has, he’s got the eye of the tiger like Rocky back in the day. I mean he is not going to walk in there defeated. I think that’s different than we’ve seen at the quarterback position at LSU in the past.

Here’s Herbstreit’s and Rodgers’s breakdown of the game.

Whew. Lotta stuff in here. Dig in. We’ll be back later this afternoon with some more for you. RTR