Let’s start your Wednesday on a humorous note:
Jalen Hurts, who appeared in three of those games, will now play in another rivalry game in Oklahoma-Texas on Saturday in the Cotton Bowl. While the former Tide and current Sooners’ quarterback stated that, after playing in the Iron Bowl, that this is just another game, a member of the Texas Longhorns disagrees.
“It’s very different. This is Texas. Texas is different. Football is more physical at Texas. The Red River Showdown is way better,” Longhorns defensive back BJ Foster said according to Anwar Richardson of Rivals.
I mean... Can you even argue with that?
“This is not a vintage Nick Saban defense and quite frankly, this is not even a good Alabama defense,” Finebaum said during Tuesday’s appearance on SportsCenter. “They’ve been pedestrian so far. You may have heard of the guys on the other side of the ball with Tua, Jeudy and Ruggs — the Alabama offense has been spectacular, but the defense has lost some of its best players including Dylan Moses, their captain, and has not looked good.
”I think they could be gashed a little bit in College Station this weekend.”
Finebaum stopped short of predicting a Texas A&M upset.
Brilliant insight, Paul. Definitely an astute diagnosis.
The Tide defense has definitely had it’s issues on the ground, but it’s not like A&M has a particularly dynamic rushing attack to take advantage of it (keep your eyes peeled for my Opponent Preview later this morning).
It was assumed a fifth consecutive matchup in the postseason between Alabama and Clemson would take place in the national championship game.
But with Ohio State taking over the College Football Playoff’s top seed in this week’s bowl projections, the Crimson Tide and Tigers are now slated to face off in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal. The Buckeyes are matched with Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.
Clemson and Alabama previously faced off in the semifinals of the 2018 Sugar Bowl. Their three other meetings were in the title games. Ohio State has emerged as the No. 1 team by outperformed both teams in the first six weeks of the season, dominating Michigan State, Cincinnati and the rest of its schedule.
Good, good. Let the Buckeyes bear the brunt of the #1 hype. I’d love for Alabama to get a Clemson rematch in a Semifinal game so as not to even give the Tigers the dignity of another National Title matchup. At this point, it’s hard to see Clemson being taken down by anyone on their schedule, but Ohio State will have some tough matches against Penn State and Wisconsin coming up, while Alabama has the typical Auburn and LSU games in November.
ESPN FPI projection: 83.7 percent Alabama win
247Sports take: Saban’s second opportunity this season at extending his unbeaten streak against a former assistant comes on the road against the Aggies, which originally marked Alabama’s second toughest matchup of the year according to ESPN’s preseason FPI. That percentage has since changed to 83.7 during Texas A&M’s disappointing start.
By the same FPI metrics, Alabama has a 74% chance of winning against LSU and a 70% chance against Auburn. The only other game less than 97% is Mississippi State at 89%.
-- It was clear Alabama is cautious of Aggie QB Kellen Mond’s speed to get to the corner. The front four of the defense was doing a drill we hadn’t seen before using two scout-team players running to the break the contain and get to the edge. Senior walk-on Jalen Jackson got most of those reps playing Mond, sprinting over and over to the edge. When it was over, he was beyond gassed.
-- Looking at the offensive line, Landon Dickerson remains taking the first-team reps at center with starter Chris Owens questionable for Saturday. Freshman Darian Dalcourt was the second-team center.
-- Deonte Brown is back in the starting group at right guard in the position occupied by Dickerson before he slid over. Brown was a starter last year who was suspended the first four games of this season. (Corrected from earlier version that stated Brown was at tackle).
Improving perimeter tackling has also been a talking point for Saban recently -- or for McKinney, a shouting point in the past.
“I think my freshman year I missed a lot of tackles,” he said Tuesday. “I remember getting yelled at by Coach Saban a lot. So every practice I kind of think about that moment, and like, ‘OK, make sure I make this tackle so he doesn’t yell at me.’ I pride myself on that.
“I feel like during the bye week we worked on that a lot. I feel like we got better on open-field tackling. You should see a big improvement this week.”
Cornerback Trevon Diggs was also saw progress on the practice field since Alabama allowed a season-high 31 points to Ole Miss.
“That was one of the things that we worked on [in the bye week],” he said Tuesday. “I feel like it’s getting better.”
After the gashing from the speedy John Rhys Plumlee against Ole Miss, Nick Saban seems to have doubled down on two major issues with the defense: tackling and outside contain on QB scrambles. If the Alabama defense can shore up some of those inconsistencies, along with better interior run fits, then, paired with such a dynamic offense, they should be good enough to win out the SEC at a minimum.
Also, with Chris Owens out, it’s looking like Dickerson may move to center to bring Deonte Brown into the starting lineup on the offensive line. If that’s the line up that the coaches stick with, then that’s lot of size in the middle of the line. That ought to get Najee Harris and Brian Robinson excited about their prospects in the run game.