Happy Thursday, everyone. We trust that everyone who celebrates Christmas had a great one. Bowl season now cranks up in earnest, with the Independence and Quick Lane Bowls later today, followed by five games tomorrow and four on Saturday to include the two semifinal contests.
Indianapolis sports radio personality Joey Mulinaro, who went viral with a Thanksgiving Nick Saban impression, followed up with a Christmas version.
Nick Saban after opening Christmas gifts pic.twitter.com/gnqHPDIowH— Mulinardo DiCaprio (@JoeyMulinaro) December 25, 2019
As Cecil notes, the Citrus Bowl performance will tell us some things about the team going forward, and he has a nugget about A-Day.
First, a tiny peppermint-sized piece of news: there will be an A-Day in some form or fashion. A decision on precisely how that game will be handled has not been made, per UA, and it probably won’t be made for a couple of months when Alabama officials see exactly what progress has been made in construction and renovation.
ESPN annually includes Alabama’s A-Day in its broadcast schedule and that’s a recruiting bonus UA isn’t likely to give up. It’s also highly unlikely the game will end up anywhere except Tuscaloosa since there is no attraction to Birmingham’s Legion Field except a vanishing nostalgia. So even if some sections aren’t available and some amenities aren’t up and running, expect the game to be back at Bryant-Denny Stadium and the related festivities — like the popular handprint-in-cement ceremony at Denny Chimes to take place as usual.
Bryce Young’s first A-Day will be just as hyped as Tua’s first back in 2017. Besides the Citrus Bowl, draft decisions will have a profound impact on next year’s squad, and there are two in particular that everyone will be waiting on.
Star Alabama linebacker, Dylan Moses, announced via Instagram that he will be announcing his decision on entering the NFL Draft or staying for his Senior season after the VRBO Citrus Bowl.
Alabama will be taking on Michigan in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida on Jan. 1, but it is unlikely we will see Moses on the field due to the ACL tear he suffered in the pre-season.
The gravity of the situation for Tagovailoa, his teammates, Alabama fans, Tide coaches, the SEC and college football is not lost. We’re talking about a generational talent considering putting his body on the line to not only win one more time at the collegiate level but take back some lost NFL dollars.
Also at stake, the ongoing health of Alabama’s dynasty.
”I’m just trying to walk first,” Tagovailoa said humbly to ESPN earlier this month.
It will not be long before it gets more complicated. Tagovailoa has not only become the leader of the Tide but particularly the junior class he joined the program with in 2017. The fate of that junior class could decide the short-term fortunes of Alabama.
Christopher Walsh is standing behind SI’s report that Moses is leaning toward returning, which is difficult for me to believe unless the mock drafts are way off on him, which can happen as Saban groused about a month ago. I consider both of these guys to be longshots to return, but stranger things have happened.
Saban has a new recruiting ace.
“He definitely has a strong reputation and I think his reputation is really growing nationally,” 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons said.
Scott was the Tide’s lead recruiter for two highly-ranked signees from Texas — McClellan and five-star outside linebacker Drew Sanders — as well as for other highly-ranked signees like four-star in-state outside linebacker Quandarrius Robinson and four-star junior college cornerback Ronald Williams.
In addition, Scott is listed as the secondary recruiter for other highly-ranked Alabama signees such as four-star Georgia safety Brian Branch and and four-star in-state running back Roydell Williams.
Georgia badly wanted Brian Branch. He was a huge pull from their backyard, had a monster senior season and looks poised to be a great one. Karl Scott is making quite a name for himself on the trail.
A few early Citrus Bowl previews:
Red zone offense has been far from Michigan’s strength in its 2019 season, a fact that could prove pivotal in the Citrus Bowl against the University of Alabama. Michigan has been able to throw the ball relatively well — tied for 32nd nationally in yards per pass attempt, and only 25 FBS teams have thrown fewer than Michigan’s seven interceptions — but finishing the drive with a touchdown is far from a guarantee. Michigan has scored a touchdown in just 61.4 percent of its red zone trips, which ranked 65th in the nation. The Alabama defense has allowed a touchdown in 56.67 of its opponents’ red zone trips, which ranked 46th.
The last time Alabama was in this situation their motivation was questioned and they beat No. 7 Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl in a one-sided beatdown. Expect Michigan to play loose — but the margin for error is no different than it was at Ohio State. Unless Patterson is as close to perfect as possible, the Wolverines won’t have a chance. Najee Harris ultimately wears on the Wolverines’ defense, and Alabama pulls away in the second half.
Alabama 41, Michigan 24
“At Ohio State, for the seven years we were there, there we a couple times we got caught outside the top 10 and I’m telling you, you’re not sure the sun’s going to come up the next day in Columbus. In Tuscaloosa, this is uncharted waters,” Meyer said. “You lose this game and you finish No. 18 or something like that – they’ll be fine, they have a great recruiting class – but I can just imagine Nick Saban and that coaching staff. They have to win this game.”
The last two times the “Alabama is angry” narrative surfaced prior to bowl season, the Crimson Tide humiliated Michigan State in 2010 and toppled top-ranked Clemson in a national semifinal two years ago.
Go take the free money while it’s there.
Few people seem to be picking Michigan, which probably sticks in Saban’s craw. Josh Gattis hopes to provide an advantage for the Wolverines.
“From a game-planning standpoint there is,” Gattis said on the show. “Just understanding the identity of the defense, knowing the players, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, things that probably give them a problem from an overall defensive standpoint. They’ve had some challenges this year just as we’ve had some, so they’ve had to overcome that.
“But ultimately, it’s about executing in between the lines, in between the whistles. It’s one thing to know how you can take advantage of a team, and it’s another thing to do it.
Michigan will have some insight from Gattis and to a lesser degree Shea Patterson, who played against Alabama as a sophomore at Ole Miss in 2017. That one was pretty ugly though, only 165 passing yards, two interceptions and zero third down conversions as the Tide won 66-3.
AL.com put an interesting survey out for you.
The online poll included five choices – The Kick by Van Tiffin in 1985, coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s 315th win in 1981, Ken Stabler’s Run in the Mud in 1967, coach Nick Saban’s first Iron Bowl win in 2008, or the return of the Iron Bowl in 1948 after a long hiatus
Well, what say you?
Barrett Sallee thinks Clemson is winning another one.
Which team on Ohio State’s schedule has anywhere close to that kind of talent? Penn State? Nah. Michigan? Nope. What’s remarkable is that those two teams are the only reasonable examples. Ohio State’s defense has turned things around, and that’s a cute little story. But it has done so against teams that pale in comparison to what Swinney is going to trot out on the field. What’s more, co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley has one foot out of the door after taking the Boston College head coaching job. Tread lightly, Buckeyes.
Look, they may well get it done, but using the line that nobody on Ohio State’s schedule is as good as Clemson is a little strange considering the schedule Clemson has played. I’d have to say that Ohio State has been tested far more than Clemson has, which may or may not make a difference. Clemson has plenty of guys with playoff experience, but new faces on both lines of scrimmage. You’d expect J.K. Dobbins and Justin Fields to have some success on the ground against a front that has looked a bit soft at times this season. This game may well hinge on how well the Tigers slow down the Ohio State pass rush. If Trevor Lawrence is able to push the ball down the field, Clemson is likely in business. If not, it could be a long day for them.
Christopher Walsh is doing a top ten list of best moments from the decade, and you can catch up here:
We will see what he comes up with for number seven.
Last, the college football world suffered a tragedy on Christmas Eve, as seemingly otherwise healthy reporter Edward Aschoff passed away from complications due to pneumonia on his 34th birthday.
Devastated to hear my friend @AschoffESPN has passed away after a battle with pneumonia.— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) December 25, 2019
Ed was a big reason I decided to pursue journalism. He took me under his wing at the Sun and I’m forever grateful.
Incredible reporter and an even better person. You will be missed! pic.twitter.com/OIVvAYM5Kl
Many of his colleagues have posted tributes to the young journalist. This news was as shocking as it was tragic. Hold your loved ones tight, folks.
That’s about it for today. Have a great day. Roll Tide.