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Jumbo Package: Is Nick Saban now college football’s hero rather than its villain?

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Alabama vs Ole Miss Photo by Kent Gidley/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Happy Monday, everyone. Hey, it’s week four of the season and Alabama stands undefeated. That’s good, right?

We will open with David Hale at ESPN, who makes an interesting comment in his weekend wrapup.

We’re trained to root for the hero in stories because we all want to believe we’re the good guy, too. But if we’re being honest, the villains make a story fun. Superman has the powers, but Lex Luthor has the personality.

And so it is with Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, the stoic hero (Saban) pitted against his former protégé turned diabolical usurper (Kiffin). Marvel has nothing on this story.

When I read that paragraph, my mouth dropped open. Imagine five years ago someone viewing Nick Saban as the hero in that story rather than the evil emperor, and Kiffin as a villain rather than a protagonist.

Has Nick Saban’s Alabama program become... lovable?

I don’t mean to Alabama fans, of course, but college football fans at large. Pretty fascinating, if you think about it. Also, if Kiffin was indeed the villain, is Kirby Smart viewed the same way this weekend?

This should be an interesting poll.

Poll

Who did you view as the "villain" in the Saban vs. Kiffin matchup?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Saban
    (158 votes)
  • 88%
    Kiffin
    (1235 votes)
1393 votes total Vote Now

To a lot of Alabama fans, the villain was DC Pete Golding on Saturday.

“I already addressed it really. We struggled. We didn’t do anything well. Didn’t stop the run. Gave up some big plays in the back end. Got picked. Couldn’t get the quarterback on the ground when we needed to when we got some pressure. We had some mistakes in coverage. We got picked in coverage. We just didn’t play very well. I’m responsible for that, and we’ve gotta do a better job as coaches to try to help put our guys in a better position. I mean, we did get off the field on third down, they went for it on fourth down and they went fast. We never got lined up. They must’ve converted three or four fourth-down situations in the game. Just gave up too many big plays. We’ve just gotta get better. Everybody on defense has gotta play better.”

The defense obviously must improve. We will see how Nick approaches it.

As Cecil notes, the whole SEC West has basically declined to play much defense this season. This week’s opponent, however, does.

That brings us to this week’s challenge. If there is a team that is playing “vintage” Alabama football in the SEC right now, it’s the Georgia Bulldogs. They grind opponents down, stop the run, pound the football and are content to let Stetson Bennett be (here comes that phrase again) a “game manager.” Has that Georgia defense faced anything like the Alabama offense yet? No. But if Alabama can’t hold its own at the defensive line of scrimmage, if it can’t tackle in the running game, how long will that offense be standing on the sideline?

Georgia has played very well on defense and Alabama on offense, but it is fair to wonder whether either platoon has been tested against anyone who can come close to matching them talent-wise. The Alabama offense vs. the Georgia defense will be a clash of titans. It’s very likely that the game isn’t decided on that side of the ball, but by what happens when Georgia’s just-good-enough offense faces Alabama’s shaky defense.

This will be the story all week.

It’s doubtful Georgia will be able to score 48 against Alabama like Ole Miss did, as the Bulldogs don’t play with near the tempo. And its defense won’t be such a sieve to give them so many possessions.

But Saban expressed some genuine concern with the current defense, as it has yet to establish any kind of distinct identity in Pete Golding’s second season as defensive coordinator.

“Obviously we’re going to have to play defense a lot better because they have a very good defensive team,” Saban said.

While this season’s Game of the Century brings back the familiar outsized hype, it will take on a different tone that we’ve become accustomed to. Alabama will enter with a mighty offense, inferior defense, and perhaps, with Saban vulnerable to lose to a former assistant for the first time.

No. 2 Alabama (3-0)

There’s no doubt now that Mac Jones is a capable replacement for Tua Tagovailoa, and that Alabama’s offense can hang with anyone. But that defense? Sheesh. After what Ole Miss was able to do to it, racking up 48 points and 647 yards, there are more questions than answers. There’s talent on that side of the ball, no doubt, but there were so many uncharacteristic missed tackles and blown assignments. If Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding can’t get it fixed in a hurry — remember, Georgia’s up next — then the Crimson Tide could be in trouble. — Alex Scarborough

No. 3 Georgia (3-0)

Georgia had a half of football that allowed Tennessee to stay close, but after that, it grinded out a game and continued to look like one of the best teams in college football. The Bulldogs have Alabama next. If they’re able to have a consistent game on offense, and let their defense shine as they usually do, it could be a big weekend for Kirby Smart’s crew. — Harry Lyles Jr.

It’s going to be a battle for sure. As you might expect, GameDay will be there.

Hype will be on overdrive. Alabama is favored according to Vegas.

No. 2 Alabama opened as a seven-point favorite over the Bulldogs when the first Las Vegas sportsbook set a line Sunday afternoon. It was quickly bet down to 5 points by Sunday evening.

The point total opened at 55.5 points a day after Alabama combined with Ole Miss to score 111 points in Oxford.

The opening line had the Tide winning about 31-24. We’ll see where it ends up as the week progresses.

Patrick Queen can’t handle all the Alabama around him in Baltimore.

A reporter then asked Queen if it was tough, as an LSU alumnus, to speak so highly of Humphrey, one of five former Alabama standouts on Baltimore’s active roster.

“Don’t say Bama around me, man,” Queen said in reply, before continuing: “I knew Marlon was great. I ain’t knew he was this great, though. This is like something I’ve never seen before. That’s all the hard work that he’s putting in coming to light, so I’m happy for him. I just can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.”

You know they are giving him all kinds of hell this year after he undoubtedly ran his mouth last year.

Last, the Las Vegas Raiders upset the Super Bowl champ Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead yesterday, and it had a very Bama flavor.

Baby rhino Josh Jacobs did his thing.

For good measure, he scored twice, and this also happened.

Henry Ruggs III had suffered an injury in week one and hadn’t been back until this week. Fitting that his first touchdown comes in the home of Tyreek Hill, the star player to whom he is often compared.

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

Roll Tide.