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Jumbo Package: Tasty cupcakes are the cure for what ails a halting running game and retooled O-line

The running game let a lot of people down Saturday.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">New Mexico State v Washington State

Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

With an offensive line that has to sort out some running game issues — and suddenly a new starting five — perhaps just what the doctored ordered is a tasty cupcake. Sure, it probably cost the University close to a million bucks, but for Jedrick Wills and the Alabama big uglies, that is an investment in the future. These are reps for December and January, not September.
Yesterday, will and Saban critiqued the OL’s performance against a reasonably-deep and respectable Duke front-seven. Saban also found that some issues lie with the backs — it’s not just the linemen. To me that was the most interesting part, and it is worth watching down the stretch: who runs with patience and plays the scheme like it’s meant to be.

“There’s a certain way you’re supposed to run the ball on certain plays. You have to trust and have confidence in that,” Saban said. “And that’s the thing we want to focus on with those guys to be able to do. If that takes rhythm to do that, then we need to improve their rhythm. If it takes more eye control and eye discipline to see what you’re supposed to see and respond that way, then that’s what we need to do. … I think every back is different.

The Tide’s opponent for next week, a road opener against South Carolina, just got infinitely easier. The one bright spot on that offense is now out indefinitely, with Sr. Quarterback Jake Bentley’s foot injury.

Well-regarded freshman Ryan Hilinski will start against Alabama.

You don’t want to see players miss action and get hurt, especially in a game they’ve probably been excited about for a few years, but this time it’s Alabama who was not the recipient of bad injury luck.

As for the Gamecocks, this is the year that Brent and I have been thinking they just run slap off the rails. Without Bentley, I’m ready to move that prediction to a near-certainty.

Rodney Orr’s critique of the ‘Bama-Blue Devils game is here.

Get ready to hear a lot of this: Jalen vs. Tua — this time for the Heisman.

Very simply, Jalen Hurts is going to have eye-popping stats in about 8 games he plays this season (I expect him to struggle against Texas, Iowa State and then some combination of Baylor, Kansas State, and Kansas). And, with that awful OU defense, he’ll play a full 60 in more games than not. So, if we’re gonna’ just make the Heisman a stat award, then’ll keep getting things like Kyler Murray, no matter that Tua posted the best season for a quarterback ever against much better competition.

I’m fully prepared for the usual regional voting split to disappear this year, and for the various regions to throw their weight behind Jalen Hurts for Heisman. ‘Bama backlash is real, Pawwwwl. And if Hurts has 8-9 games like the one he had against Houston, expect the media narrative to heavily drive the trophy towards Norman, no matter how much Jalen has has regressed or failed to develop as a quarterback (and it appears he has) or how iffy the competition is (and the Big 12 is as bad as it comes defensively.)

You know in your heart it’s coming; I’m just readying you for that eventuality. Like Peyton Manning, Tua Tagovailoa will exit college as the best quarterback of his generation, one snubbed by the Heisman for ridiculous and petty reasons.

Anti-Gump. No refunds.

Sometimes I think that Joe Namath’s Superbowl III prediction was the worst thing that ever happened to sports. How many times now have we heard guys guarantee victory only to slink back into the shadows after not coming through?

This week’s guarantor? A&M OL Jared Hocker, who promised a victory on the road.

In this case, it’s not as ridiculous as it seems. If you only paid attention to box scores and ESPN’s gushing, you’d think Clemson looked like an unbeatable juggernaut last week. They looked far from it. The Yellow Jackets facing a complete program rebuild gave away 21 points on turnovers etc., had one bust on the outside for an easy TD, but otherwise played an aggressive game that harassed Sunshine into all sorts of mistakes: low completion percentage, bad QBR, two picks, a meager 7 yards per completion. The defense was also nougaty-soft right up the center, as you’d expect from a team with little depth that lost 6 defenders on the front seven to the NFL over the last two years.

And, while I’m not ready to call for an upset (I think that’s far more likely on the road next week in Syracuse), this won’t be a blowout either.

New Mexico State’s road is a rough one in Tuscaloosa this weekend. They were blasted by Washington State 58-7, turned the ball over three times while forcing none, and tallied just 317 yards of offense on the road against a new DC and scheme in Pullman. Yikes.

This is the one game I’ve been critical of scheduling for two years, and that’s not apt to change. Alabama’s SOS would have literally been better off it Greg Byrne called up a very good FCS team and paying them a million buck — don’t think for a second that the Dakota States (SD and ND), Montana, Eastern Washington or JMU wouldn’t have loved to come to Bryant Denny. Hell, get Alabama State or Jax State on the phone. If it’s about the 8th game of revenue that kind of in-state game would sell-out...this one will not.

Yesterday was Saban’s Monday presser, and, as usual, 247 has your verbatim transcript here:

“One of the things we were most pleased with coming out of this game was the resiliency our team showed to overcome a little bit of a slow start. We hung in there, we kept battling. The defense made a couple of key stops, even though we turned the ball over in bad field position, had a couple of three-and-outs on offense. I think everybody kept their poise, everybody kept competing. And like we always talk about, you get punched and stunned in the first round of a fight, you don’t go down and you just keep boxing and the next thing you know you win the fight, and kind of win the momentum of the game as you go.

”I think the thing we want to do with our team right now is be sure to point out all the things that we did well in the game so we build confidence in our players and show them doing things right’s going to help them be able to perform well. And to point out the errors that we made, whether they’re fundamental or mental so that we can correct the mistakes that we made and hopefully have the best chance to improve.

Shoutouts to Tua for taking what the defensive gave him, Ale Kaho plugging in at fullback, Landon Dickerson being a monster, freshman inside linebackers having a great game, and more...

That offensive line is still banged up going into Week 2. In yesterday’s practice session, two guys did not participate:

— Backup offensive guard Emil Ekiyor (knee) and backup defensive end Justin Eboigbe (foot) weren’t practicing. Ekiyor, who got hurt against Duke on Saturday, may be out a week or two according to Saban. Eboigbe, who was classified as day-to-day last week, was walking off with an athletic trainer as the media entered practice. The freshman had a walking boot on his left foot.

This is where Deionte Brown’s weed suspension hurts ‘Bama the most. They could seriously use help at the guard spot...and the running game always flourished with his big, nasty road-grading.

Finally, I leave you with this, because there is not a single day on this planet that I do not wish bad things upon the Volunteers:

You’d think that beating an SEC team on the road would be Georgia State’s program-defining win. Per coach Shawn Elliot, nope. It wasn’t. That honor belongs too...Western Kentucky, in the 2017 Beat Hunger/Cure Bowl.


Have a great day. Plenty of stuff coming later. ROW TAHD