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Jumbo Package: Is Tua at 85% enough to exploit Oklahoma’s defense?

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Spoiler: Yes.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Heisman Trophy Presentation

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It’s prediction time. Here are Forde and crew providing three key factors to the game. They hit on, what I think, will be a huge one: How well OU can contain Jaylen Waddle:

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

The health of Tua Tagovailoa: The Heisman runner-up said his surgically-repaired right ankle was feeling about 80-85 percent on Wednesday. How much will that impact him? If Tagovailoa has to stay in the pocket more, that shouldn’t be much of an issue against an Oklahoma secondary that isn’t able to cover for very long. Tagovailoa may not be getting past his first reads very often.

Why Alabama will win it all:

3. It has more depth than anybody else: When it comes to recruiting rankings, one of the biggest gripes about how the system works is that they weigh the number of recruits “too much.” In other words, a recruiting class of 10 four-star players might be ranked behind a class of 25 three-star players. But there’s a reason for that. It’s called safety in numbers. In other words, the more players you have, the more likely you are to have players develop into stars.

We saw last year what that depth meant, especially in the passing game and linebacker. This year. we’ve seen it again in the defensive backfield and under center. Everyone’s got 22 players, at this stage it’s about guys number 23-85. And Alabama is better than the field. #JimmiesAndJoes

For the companion pieces, here’s how

Clemson can win it all:

2. Experience counts: Clemson has experienced the playoff at every level. It has both won and lost CFP semifinals and both won and lost in the CFP National Championship. Not only is this one of the most experienced teams at the top of college football -- more than 50 players on the roster juniors or seniors -- but it’s arguably the team with the most playoff experience.

How Oklahoma can take home the crown:

1. The offense is the most efficient in college football with the best player: By now you surely know that Oklahoma is driven by its offense. And while the old saying goes that defense wins championships, three of the playoff’s four champions ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring offense. The Sooners, of course, have the top offense in college football with the most outstanding player in quarterback Kyler Murray, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner.

Pardon my French, but I’m calling bullshit on that one.

And, finally, what Notre Dame needs to do to bring home its first title in 25 years:

1. Defense wins championships: OK, so defense doesn’t always win championships nowadays. “Just enough” defense does. There’s no doubt that the Fighting Irish has consistently found enough on a weekly basis. They finished the season ranked No. 1 in defensive yards per play against AP Top 25 teams at 3.81, No. 7 overall with 4.53.

That’s a point I’ve been making about ND’s defense all season. They’re not flashy, and don’t have the big names up front that Clemson does, but they’re far better in the defensive backfield than the the Tigers. This is the first legitimate and complete team that CU may have seen all year. I’m thisssss close to predicting the upset, in fact. If they can contain Ettiene and find ways to be creative against a weaker back seven, the Irish have more than a puncher’s chance.

Players made their media appearances yesterday. The defense was represented by Dylan Moses, Quinnen Williams, and Deionte Thompson.

The offense was captained by Jerry Jeudy, Tua Tagovailoa, and the incomparably awesome dude that is Damien Harris. Tua also put a percentage on his recovery, just 48 hours out — he’s at 80-85%. He looks ahead of schedule, TBH. But, for a shorter guy who relies on movement in the pocket to create a throwing lane, he lack of mobility could be an issue if he has to move to his second and third reads.

SPOILER: He won’t need to very often.
SPOILER TWO: Jalen Hurts can eviscerate this defense just as well. In fact, I’d be just as happy letting Hurts have his transfer highlight film in the Orange Bowl and save Tua for Clemson. #GumpSoHard

Casagrande also picked up some savory quotes from the Sooners. No #disrespectingthetide to be found in Norman.

It’s also that rare time of the year when Nick Saban pulls the assistants out of their cages and lets them speak to other human beings. Here’s what it’s like to work for the Nicktator.

AL.com has your practice footage here. Well, in Tua’s case, it’s more practice ankle-age.

Cheatin’ Dabo.

The Tigers have resolved themselves to being down three players, including massive DT Dexter Lawrence. Today or tomorrow the trio’s B samples should be coming in. And, if they are still positive, the appeals process begins. The NCAA doesn’t move too swiftly on them, and if the results are upheld, the sanctions include a minimum 365 day suspension and 4-6 games.

Great quote in here from a ND offensive lineman too. On Notre Dame’s part, they’ll believe the suspension when they actually see it, no matter the results. They’re preparing for Lawrence to play even with a positive result.

Speaking of missing time, Kyler Murray is sick. Seems every year around this time players are taking ill. He’s not expected to miss any playing time.

Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray has missed his scheduled media availability at the Orange Bowl on Wednesday because of what the team says is an illness.

Murray was able to go through practice with the Sooners on Tuesday, and the nature of his illness was not disclosed.

What is schematically the most difficult job in college football? Defensive coordinator. Here’s a good story on the DCs with a nod to how a stint with the TAHD helps you get a head coaching job.

Over the last two years there have been 42 coaches hired in FBS and 34 have had offensive backgrounds, a fact pointed out recently by Football Scoop. Working for Alabama coach Nick Saban seems to help. The Tide is also on its third defensive coordinator in three years as Tosh Lupoi was promoted after last season to replace Jeremy Pruitt, who is now Tennessee’s head coach. Pruitt got the job when Kirby Smart left to lead Georgia in 2016.

Mike Locksley may disagree about DC being the hardest job in football. Calling plays that distribute the ball between four great running backs, four great wide receivers, a dominant tight end, and two highly-decorated quarterbacks may be an even harder task.

Here’s how he keeps everyone as happy as can be under the circumstances in which Tide’s offense finds itself. #AlabamaProblems

Someone else who’s had a learning experience is first-year DC Tosh Lupoi:

On adding some wrinkles to the defense: “At the end of the day, we’re going to stay within the body of Coach Saban’s defense that’s had a lot of success over the years, long before I ever came here or any other coach has been here. I think it’s a matter of, as a staff, planning and preparing, doing everything we can from an individual standpoint to put it all together, to have collective success.”

TL; DR — No reinventing the wheel here. It’s still Saban’s defense.

Tua’s main hypothetical opponent for the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, Oregon QB Justin Herbert, is returning to school. Here comes the Heisman deluge already from the West Coast — some schools aren’t shy about hyping their guys.

If Oklahoma is going to beat Alabama, it needs to play a flawless game and get some help from the Tide.

Here are five weaknesses opposing coaches have spotted with the Tide, including a bugaboo that I think is more perception than reality — Alabama’s special teams.

An assistant coach who studied the Tide this season made this observation: “I think their special teams are not at the level of their offense and defense. You have to find a way to take advantage of one of their teams. They are good on all their coverage units, not great. You have to make something happen on special teams.”

Another coach flat-out called the special teams “a weakness” and “uncharacteristic” of a Saban-coached team. The statistics back it up, as their special teams efficiency rating is No. 81 overall.

This is just weird. Yes, the Tide have missed several extra points, but the return units are as dangerous as anyone in the country, the coverage units are almost as good, and placekicking is hitting at an above-average 75% on the year. Punting now? Okay, we won’t talk about punting. But, against Oklahoma, I don’t think Alabama will even have to punt until we’re in garbage time. I STATE MY PREDICTION AGAIN: Alabama’s starting offense will score every possession in the first half.

Man, what a dumb offseason we’re setting up to have. Major Applewhite, having gone 7-5 and 8-5, and having been a head coach for just two seasons, is already being set up to be fired at Houston.
And, Harbaugh at Michigan is going to have some stupid money thrown at him by the NY Jets. Given his underperforming results (one second place finish, three finishes tied for third or fourth), bad PR from four starters skipping bowls, and the coming player attrition this offseason (losing 19 upperclassmen), it may not be a bad time to dip his toes back in the deliciously-bland Shieldbowl waters.

Three things to know about OU, and one that should set up for a nice matchup: the Sooners’ very experienced OL, including All-American tackle Cody Ford. Alongside OM’s Greg Little and Jonah Williams, he is in the class of the nation at tackle:

As important as quarterback Kyler Murray has been to Oklahoma’s repeat trip to the College Football Playoff, don’t discount the importance of their experienced offensive line.

The Sooners have two seniors (left guard Ben Powers and right guard Dru Samia) and two fourth year juniors (left tackle Bobby Evans and right tackle Cody Ford) have combined to start over 140 games in their collegiate careers.

Okay, you have a lot to dig through today, and three bowl games. So, get to it. We’ll see you in a bit.

RTR