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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

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Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith look to make their marks in college football history

Alabama vs Arkansas Photo by Kent Gidley/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Jones knew well his mission as scout team quarterback for this particular drill: Hail Mary, heave the ball deep, no matter what, no question. But not a single player on that fearsome, championship-winning defense was covering his friend Derek Kief, so why not, Jones figured.

Jones tossed an emphatically not-deep screen pass Kief’s way, then ran behind the wide receiver. In a nifty plot twist, Kief pitched the ball back to Jones, who beelined for the (practice) end zone and “scored.” Jones spiked the ball then looked up.

Saban, straw hat perched in its time-honored spot, was sprinting down the field, as crimson with fury as the band around that hat.

Let’s just say redshirt junior Mac Jones has had Nick Saban’s attention since Jones’ days on the scout team. Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser/Imagn

“I GOT ABSOLUTELY destroyed by Coach Saban for the next 10 minutes,” Jones says now, some three years removed from the foolhardy crimes of his youth. (Read: freshman year.) “Everyone still brings it up, and I’m super embarrassed.”

Then he barks out a laugh. Or laughs out a bark. He bark-laughs.

This is a phenomenal piece of writing from ESPN’s Hallie Grossman. If you read absolutely nothing else today, check out this one detailing Mac Jones’ personality as “the Joker” and just what’s made him so unique and goofy.

Couldn’t be more proud of our quarterback.

1. Alabama (10-0)

2. Notre Dame (10-0)

3. Clemson (9-1)

4. Ohio State (5-0)

5. Texas A&M (7-1)

6. Iowa State (8-2)

7. Florida (8-2)

8. Georgia (7-2)

9. Cincinnati (8-0)

10. Oklahoma (7-2)

Cool. Whatever. Florida only dropped a single spot for losing to LSU, which I guess is a good thing for Alabama and their strength of schedule just in case the Tide loses the SEC Championship game.

For those interested, USC is ranked #13. The Trojans have the exact same record as Ohio State (5-0), so you have to wonder what makes up the 8 spot difference between the two?

Alabama’s defense will be faced with a tough task in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but that side of the football has steadily improved since the Ole Miss game. Over the last 26 quarters (6.5 games), the Tide has only allowed 53 points, an average of 8.2 points per game.

At the conclusion of the regular season, Alabama ranks first in the SEC in scoring defense (16.8 points per game), second in passing defense (227.1 yards per game) and third in total defense (340.1 ypg). The Crimson Tide also ranks sixth nationally in turnover margin (+9) and is coming off its best pass-rushing performance of the year with 8.0 sacks against Arkansas.

“I think early on, we had four out of five new starters in the secondary and some young guys playing up front on defense,” Saban said. “I think their confidence in knowing what the expectation was in terms of what we were supposed to do as a defensive team was not probably, from a knowledge and experience standpoint, where it needed to be. And also, you face a lot of different multiples of things that you have to prepare for when you’re playing against different offenses, and that contributed too to the learning curve that these guys had to go through.

“I think as they gained knowledge and experience throughout the year, they improved and we made less mental errors and played better as a unit. Tackled better and played better as a unit.”

Had that game against Ole Miss not happened at the start of the season, we’d likely be talking about this defense as one that was as near to a return to the early-Saban years as you’ll find in modern college football.

It did happen, however, and that has permanently marred the expectations of the entire fanbase. Until this defense goes out and continues to play at an elite, dominant level against Florida and through the playoffs, we’ll all be sitting around worried about a reversion.

For someone who thinks outside the box, however, pay heed to Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman. In assessing Bama and the Heisman – and this was before the Tide put a 52-3 beating on the Razorbacks – Pittman said, “I don’t think they ask a first-year coach, former offensive line coach, but if I had a vote, I’d vote their entire offensive line.”

That’s not happening, of course. The Heisman, like most college football awards, is an individual honor. There is, though, a position group award.

The Joe Moore Award is the Heisman Trophy for an offensive line, and Alabama’s group is one of 11 making the semifinals for the 2020 award.

It’s no surprise that Bama has a good offensive line this year. There were four starters back from last year, two of them with All-America credentials at the two most important positions on the OL. At center is Landon Dickerson and at left tackle Alex Leatherwood.

Personally, I think this is easily the best Alabama offensive line since 2012, and it might even be better than that group. It’s going to be REALLY tough to replace Leatherwood, Brown, and Dickerson next season.

AL.com asked 18 coaches and team officials from around the SEC: If you had to vote on the Heisman today, who would you vote for?

Of the 18, 15 voted for Smith.

Two of the other votes went to Trask. One went to Jones.

“If someone can actually watch that kid play in person and truly believe there’s a better player than him in the country, they are the dumbest person alive,” an SEC offensive coach said. “He can do it all. Effortless.”

Everyone with a vote will be tuned in to this game to make their decision on who to cast their Heisman ballot for. It’s been 30 years since a wide receiver won the Heisman trophy, and if DeVonta Smith shows out against Florida, I think he might legitimately be the next. 120 yards and a receiving TD and another punt return TD would absolutely seal the deal.

Everyone WANTS to vote for him. They’re just also all falling in to the peer pressure of expectations to stick with a QB.


That’s all for today. We’ll be focusing on recruiting as the signees start rolling in for the Early Signing Day.