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Jumbo Package: Alabama Football continues classroom success, softball super regional kicks off tonight

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone. The softball team kicks off the super regional at Washington tonight at 8pm CT in what amounts to a David vs. Goliath matchup that is the inverse of those we typically watch on fall Saturdays. To be frank, the Tide will have to play its best just to keep the games competitive against a squad that averaged more than six runs a game, with an ERA of 1.13, on the season. Hope for the best.

Alabama’s football program continues to excel in the classroom.

The football program’s academic progress rate -- known as the APR-- has improved in nine of the ten seasons it’s been calculated during the Saban era.

Alabama’s most recent score of 984, which was tabulated over a four-year period and released to the public this week, is the highest it’s ever been. It’s also 16 points above the national average for FBS teams and better than the scores linked to 13 of the 14 members of the Southeastern Conference. Only Vanderbilt’s 993 was superior.

In addition to the growth in APR, we saw several former Alabama stars at spring graduation, having returned to get their degrees. This is a critical part of the culture Saban has created, and you can bet that it’s helped recruiting.

Surprise! Vegas loves Alabama.

The Crimson Tide was at least a touchdown favorite in all four games against Ole Miss (-20), Texas A&M (-21), LSU (-10) and Auburn (-7), according to South Point. The Ole Miss and LSU games will take place in Oxford, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La., respectively, while the Texas A&M and Auburn games are played inside Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“If they were on a neutral field and I had to take the bets, I’d probably make ‘Bama at least an 8-point favorite,” Edwards told SEC Country earlier this week. “Probably 8-and-a-half. Maybe 9.”

Bulldogs fans might ask: Why? Didn’t Edwards see the ‘Dawgs establish themselves as an elite program last season? Wouldn’t common sense tell you that Georgia is soaring toward SEC domination?

Well, yeah, Edwards said, if you forget about Nick Saban’s unbelievable consistency in Tuscaloosa.

Auburn has expectations this year, which of course means that they will find a way to go in the tank and get blown out in Tuscaloosa. I’m not sure that the spread would be that high against Georgia, assuming the two meet in Atlanta as expected. Kirby has assembled quite the roster in Athens.

Well, we know that Josh Gattis has paid some early dividends.

“They weren’t going to be in my top schools when I was committing and they were definitely not the school I was going to commit to (in December),” Alfano said. “Seeing Josh Gattis go to Alabama really did help them a lot and pushed them over the top. That second visit down there really (helped).”

247Sports Director of Recruiting Steve Wiltfong believes Alfano, the top-ranked player in New Jersey according to the 247Sports Composite, will be an integral part of Alabama’s reload along the defensive front.

Watching tape and hearing him speak, Alfano seems to have a blue collar mentality similar to that of fellow New Jerseyan Minkah Fitzpatrick. He is going to be a big player going forward.

Here is a funny quip from former Tide assistant and Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.

“He said, ‘Now, what is all this about? Who the hell likes recruiting?’ I said, ‘That’s part of my job. That’s why you hired me,” Arians said. “I’m a good recruiter. I’m a full-time coach. If this part-time job is the job you’d offered me, I’d still be at Mississippi State.’

“So, he stood up over that desk and said, ’Boy, I don’t talk out of both sides of my mouth. You get your ass in the car and start recruiting. You’re full time’ … I headed out that day and I didn’t come back for about three weeks.”

I think I’d have stayed away a while, too.

Last, some hoops news:

The Crimson Tide last faced Baylor in a closed scrimmage prior to the 2017-18 season and won that contest, 75-67, in Atlanta’s Philips Arena practice facility. Collin Sexton led the team in scoring with 15 points, while Herbert Jones scored 12 points. Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram also contributed 10 points each. Baylor was led by Terry Maston’s 24 points off the bench.

Tevin Mack should have some familiarity with Baylor from his time at Texas. This will be a challenging, but fun, road matchup.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.