Best team: Alabama
The score at halftime through Alabama’s first three games: 28-7 vs. Louisville, 40-0 vs. Arkansas State and 49-7 vs. Mississippi. The Tide have been ridiculously good. What’s been most impressive of all is the play of sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has performed as well as any player in the country and keyed one of the most prolific three-game scoring streaks in program history.
Best conference: The SEC
The idea that the Big Ten rivaled the SEC was erased during a rough Week 3 highlighted by Wisconsin’s loss at home to Brigham Young. Meanwhile, the SEC has been as strong as predicted at the top but better than expected along its second tier, where teams such as Missouri, Kentucky and Texas A&M have impressed. Alabama, Georgia and LSU are in the top six of this week’s Amway Coaches Poll.
Best quarterback: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Not that Tagovailoa has been the only impressive quarterback in the FBS – there’s Penn State’s Trace McSorley, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, West Virginia’s Will Grier and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, to name a few. But check out what he’s done on third down: Tagovailoa is a perfect 13 of 13 for 298 yards and six touchdowns through three games. That’s crazy.
USA Today put out an article here giving every team a grade for the 1⁄4 mark of the season. Nothing too special to look at, but I did rather enjoy the fact that we have the best player on the best team in the best conference. That is how things should be.
Speaking of grades, check this out.
The PFF Week 3 Team of the Week on defense in the SEC pic.twitter.com/n7WF506HNj— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 19, 2018
The defense is especially gumpy with three members of the secondary showing up and three players getting a rating above 90, and look at Quinnen Williams! Interestingly, they weren’t quite as high on Trevon Diggs, though he still had a strong enough performance to make the cut.
“It looks like a Big 12 offense,” Randy Cross says at the end of the video. “They’re spreading it, they’re flipping it. Tagovailoa is making some amazing throws. It’s been since 2010 that Saban’s team has started this way. They’re 3-0 and no matter what they’re favored by, they’ve won by at least that. They haven’t done that since 2010 and they’re going to cruise in this one.”
I’m not totally sure where he came up with the referencing of the 2010 Alabama season. Sure, that iteration of the Tide blew out San Jose State and Duke, but the win over Penn State was merely solid, not absolutely dominant. I’d say that 2012 was probably our best start, blowing out Michigan, then following up by shutting out Western Kentucky and Arkansas. 2011, 2013, and 2017 were all just as good a starts as the 2010 season as well.
I’m also not sure how I like being compared to a Big 12 offense. In respect to the passing game, that’s a good thing. Especially after the anemic thing we’ve seen in that area for most of the Saban tenure. I guess as long as the defense and running game stay strong as well, there’s no harm in going a little “Big 12” on everybody through the air.
In limited action this season, his completion percentage, yards-per-attempt average and efficiency rating have increased significantly.
His performance delivering intermediate and deep passes has also improved as he’s connected on 60 percent of his attempts traveling 10 or more yards in the air after hitting on just 48 percent of those throws in 2017.
At the same time, the bad habits he had fallen into during his 26-2 run as a starter have subsided. While he’s scrambled at virtually the same rate he did last season, he’s thrown the ball away only once in 28 attempts after doing so on 18 of the 255 passes he launched in 2017, according to ProFootballFocus.com
Doing a little armchair sports psychology here, Jalen’s obvious improvement in his comfort level in the pocket has to do with no longer being the starter with a talented player right at his back. For the past two years, he’s had the pressure of keeping the best team in the nation afloat. And when you’re under that sort of pressure, you default in split second situations to what’s always worked best for you— for Hurts, that was scrambling. Now that the pressure is off his shoulders, he can work at what he’s been taught and honing his passing game. It’s not such a big deal if he stands in the pocket and takes a sack or throws a pick while trying to work through his progressions. Basically, he now has the room and margin to grow as a pure passer.
“You asked the wrong person that question,” Gaston said. “I’m going to give you a real biased answer. I’m not going to take away from their talent, but I’m going to give you a really biased answer.
”As far as our secondary and our front seven, I can’t even put it into words. You got George (Teague), who was a first-round pick, and you got (Antonio) Langham, who was a Thorpe winner, at your corners. You got Chris Donnelly at safety. You had Tommy Johnson, you had me coming off bench. Then, look at the linebacker corps. You had Derrick Oden, who went to Philadelphia. You had the bookends: (John) Copeland and (Eric) Curry. You had Jeremy Nunley right there in the middle with James Gregory.
”Then, when we wanted to add more pressure to you, we put Antonio London on the end, and Copeland and Curry together. I mean, come on!”
Many of you nostalgic types will enjoy this one just for names that get mentioned. All in all, I think this kind of thing is really an exercise in futility, as the game of football has changed so drastically since then.
I personally enjoy the 2011 defense vs the 1992 defense argument a lot more than a defense vs offense thing. And I really wish the 2016 defense hadn’t had that final smear against DeShaun Watson, as they’d have been right there in the running with those two as well.
-- When the defensive broke into different groups, Savion Smith with the starting cornerback in nickel along with Trevon Diggs. Patrick Surtain II was shadowing Smith on the right side of the formation. The true freshman saw some serious playing time Saturday at Ole Miss.
-- Nickel back Shyheim Carter had some extra wrapping on his right hand. He was with the first team.
-- Surtain also made an impressive play on the ball during cornerback drills. Adjusted in the air to almost make a circus interception.
-- On the offensive line, Richie Petitbon was the second-team left tackle and Scott Lashley was the second right tackle. I believe it was Lashley who replaced Jedrick Wills for a play against Arkansas State when the starter’s helmet came off.
-- The Seattle Seahawks had a scout watching practice.
By “serious playing time”, they really mean that Surtain played the entire time until the back-ups came in, save for the opening play that got Saivion Smith benched.
The most interesting part was that Trevon Diggs wound up moving to the left corner for much of the game so that Surtain could stick to right corner, where he’s mostly played so far. That, more than anything, really proved to me just how much Saban is trusting Diggs right now. He’s had no qualms at playing him at all 3 corner positions throughout three games to figure out what combination of other corners works best for the team.
That’s it for today. Roll Tide!