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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

Is Nick Saban really underrated?

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama
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Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Butch Jones leaving Alabama to join Maryland coaching staff under Mike Locksley

Nick Saban has turned Alabama’s off-field coaching staff into a coaching rehabilitation program over the last half-decade, and Butch Jones is reportedly the latest to receive his diploma. The former Tennessee coach and current offensive analyst with the Crimson Tide is set to join Maryland’s staff as tight ends coach and associate head coach, according to 247Sports.

Maryland recently named current Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Mike Locksley as its new head coach. Locksley replaces interim coach Matt Canada, who filled in all season with the Terrapins after D.J. Durkin was suspended and eventually dismissed.

Good for Butch.

Usually, the UA Rehab program requires someone to work from analyst up to an assistant coach before moving on to another school, but it seems like the former Champion of Life graduated early.

College Football Playoff odds, line: Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Clemson vs. Notre Dame picks, predictions from expert on 52-35 run

The College Football Playoff semifinals are set as Alabama takes aim at its sixth national title in 10 seasons. The Crimson Tide, who used an epic comeback to win the SEC Championship Game, will play Big 12 champ Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 29. It’s an 8 p.m. ET kickoff from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Bookmakers list the Tide as 14-point favorites, with the over-under for total points scored set at 81 in the latest Alabama vs. Oklahoma odds.

A pair of undefeated teams clash in the first semifinal when Notre Dame (12-0) plays Clemson (13-0) earlier that day in the Cotton Bowl. Kickoff from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is at 4 p.m. ET. Sportsbooks list the Tigers as 11-point favorites, with the over-under set at 55 in the latest Notre Dame vs. Clemson odds. Before you make any College Football Playoff semifinal picks and predictions, see what college football guru Josh Nagel says.

It’s interesting to me that both semifinal games feature matchups with a point spread in the double-digits.

I’m not making any commentary on the matter of playoffs or anything, but it is funny that the old BCS would have likely been the best method for this year, with two clear-cut top teams.

Why is Nick Saban going for his 7th national title being overlooked, ignored?

Perhaps the lack of discussion is because Alabama still has to get through the Sooners and then there’s a week-plus buildup to the title game. There’s also no denying that Crimson Tide fatigue has reached a new level.

It’s evident with things like quarterback Tua Tagovailoa not winning the Heisman Trophy, the Football Writers Association of America snubbing Biletnikoff Awardwinner Jerry Jerry for its All-American teams, and Saban being overlooked for every coach of the year honor.

All he did was lead the Crimson Tide to an undefeated regular season and conference championship after having six assistant coaches hired away, including both the offensive and defensive coordinators. Alabama also lost 22 players to the last two NFL drafts and the new lineup has had to deal with the pressures that go with being the reigning champions.

Yet here we are.

At times under Saban the Crimson Tide’s been the equivalent of watching someone play a video game at a lower level of difficulty. Or Alabama’s viewed as being like the big boss at the end of a stage, the ultimate foe that has to be vanquished despite appearing to be invincible.

If anything, Saban doesn’t get anywhere the credit he deserves.

If I were to feature one piece in today’s JP, it’s this one. Christopher Walsh at College Sports Maven breaks down just how dominant Nick Saban has been in a list of unique and downright ridiculous stats.

The national media has totally given up on any hype about Saban and Alabama making history with yet another title win. Instead, it’s viewed as an inevitability— one that is fun to wish against, but without too much real hope.

Joseph Bulovas discusses what it’s like kicking for Alabama

“I think it’s just a learning process here,” Bulovas said after the SEC championship game. “It’s my first year starting. Obviously, there are some great expectations. But that’s why you come here — to be with the best and be on the biggest stage in the country. I am just cherishing every moment and being very thankful and taking advantage of everything I can because that is all you can do is try to do your best.”

Bulovas arrived at Alabama last year with much fanfare, in part because of a video posted on YouTube that showed him in high school converting a 70-yard field goal in practice. But Bulovas redshirted as a freshman, biding his time as senior Andy Pappanastos handled the placekicking duties. And it was uncertain if he would even be used regularly this fall after graduate transfer Austin Jones debuted as the starter in the opener against Louisville.

I won’t harp on the kicking game any more, for now. I just thought getting a quote from Bulovas about his view of things would be a good read.

If anything, Bulovas has actually been really solid on longer-range field goals— it’s been the shorter ones that have given him troubles.

Alabama Football: Recruiting more about 85 roster than a 25 class

Alabama football has three carryover slots from last season, making the magic number 28 for the 2019 class. The Grayshirt option could push one or two players forward into the 2020 class.

The more complicated number is the roster limit of 85 scholarship players. Don’t be confused if after the Early Signing Period and Signing Day in February, the Tide appears to be way over the 85 player limit. It will be and it will not matter. The final 85-player limit does not have to be reached before fall camp starts next August.

The delay is sensible. Players and coaches need time to make NFL and transfer decisions. Alabama football fans should not be concerned if it takes all spring and much of the summer to trim the roster.

It’s never too early to start looking ahead to the offseason games in recruiting and roster management (my favorite part of football, to be honest). There are a number of Alabama players who are very borderline in the “could go pro” category this year, so the overall numbers game will be an interesting one for Saban.

Alabama Football: Recruits should pay close attention to NFL Draft stats

5-Star Signees Drafted in NFL First Round:

Alabama Crimson Tide – 48.3 percent

Florida Gators – 29.4 percent

LSU – 21.4 percent

Georgia Bulldogs – 18.8 percent

Florida State – 16.7 percent

Southern Cal – 15.8 percent

Ohio State – Zero percent

Make no mistake, there are many 3-Star and 4-Star players who become NFL first-rounders. Two Crimson Tide examples are Marcel Dareus and Mark Ingram. But looking at the 5-Star numbers above, it is difficult to understand why elite recruits choose any school other than the University of Alabama.

With the National Signing Day just around the corner, here’s your recruiting plug:

If you’re an elite high school prospect, go to Alabama. That single decision will more than double your chances of getting drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.

And if you just can’t bring yourself to go to Alabama? Go to the SEC. Only Florida and LSU are even in the same realm of existence as the Tide, if only barely.