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Jumbo Package: Irish running game presents a challenge, Mac and Smitty don’t want to talk Heisman

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NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama The Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone. As you know, Alabama got some great news overnight on the recruiting trail when RB Camar Wheaton chose the Tide over Oklahoma. That kid looks special.

Brett Hudson notes that Alabama will be dealing with a potent rushing attack in Arlington.

Kyren Williams is one of 10 players to rush for 1,000 yards. He takes up a significant portion of No. 4 Notre Dame’s offense as it prepares to face the Crimson Tide at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. With Williams, the Irish bring a rushing attack that UA has not seen in almost all of its opponents.

“I don’t think you win 10 games in this season without having some really, really good players,” UA coach Nick Saban said of the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame has run on 59.3% of its offensive snaps. Only two of Alabama’s opponents have run more often: Ole Miss (59.5%) and Kentucky (63.3%). Quarterback running does not differentiate the schemes much: Ole Miss and Kentucky got rushing workloads from their quarterbacks, going for 13 and seven carries against UA, respectively. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book has run eight or more times in all but one of his games.

The Tide has played the run well in the second half of the season, allowing only LSU to break three yards a carry in the past six games, and the Bayou Bengals got just 3.6 for 98 yards. The Notre Dame offense is one that a championship caliber team should be able to limit.

Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith will likely be announced as Heisman finalists tonight, but neither wants to talk about it.

I’m only guaranteed one more game,” Smith said, “and I’m more focused on that than an award.”

When prompted, both offered an argument for the other’s case to win the Heisman.

“He’s the leader of the offense,” Smith said of his quarterback. “He controls everything — him and Landon (Dickerson). They’re the leader of everything.”

And the other side?

“Smitty, he’s the most electric player in college football,” Jones said. “He means the most to us here at Alabama football. You can watch the games and see that, what type of person he is with how he plays.”

Damn, Smitty. Reminding us that you’re about to be gone and bringing up Landon’s leadership? You’re killing us, man.

Alabama placed eight on the first team of the CBS All-America team, which is simply absurd.

Alabama leads the way with 10 total selections and eight first-teamers, somehow more than they received in the preseason despite Jaylen Waddle (who accounted for three preseason picks) missing most of the season due to injury. No other team has more than three total selections (Florida, Ohio State, Miami) or two first-team picks (Florida, Notre Dame).

Christian Barmore and Patrick Surtain II made the cut on defense, and Will Reichard at kicker.

Mark Barron continued his philanthropy by donating $1000 apiece to 15 families in need yesterday.

There was some irony involved in the Mark Barron Christmas Giveaway. On Tuesday, the Denver Broncos released the linebacker. But a day after losing his job, Barron provided Christmas cheer in Coastal Alabama – some going to folks who had lost their jobs.

“I’m thankful for what he’s doing,” Michelle Barron said of her son’s efforts, “and I’m happy that he’s continuing to do it.”

Barron has done a lot of good in his hometown.

There will be an Alabama storyline when the Eagles and Cowboys hook up this weekend.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs is back healthy just in time to face his former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts this weekend with the Philadelphia Eagles.

And even though they’re friends, Diggs is hopeful to take a souvenir home from the game courtesy of Hurts.

That’s always the main goal, to always create turnovers and stuff,” Diggs said, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News. “But with him especially, him being one of my good friends and all. It’s time to turn it on.”

I’d say that both rookies have exceeded expectations this season.

Last, Auburn settled on Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin, and we have a few more details about the power struggle behind the scenes.

This sounds exactly like what Harsin wanted. But his history offers few clues about how he’ll handle his new surroundings. His only foray into anything close to this level of intensity was two seasons (2011-12) as the co-offensive coordinator at Texas. His only other experience in the SEC footprint is his one season (2013) as the head coach as Arkansas State. There, he replaced Malzahn, who had spent a year at the school before he was hired by Auburn to replace Gene Chizik, who had won the national title in 2010 and gone 0-8 in the SEC in 2012. Malzahn had been the offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2009-11, so he understood exactly what he was getting into when he became the Tigers’ head coach.

Does Harsin?

There were search committee members initially open to the idea of Steele becoming the head coach, according to sources, but that openness waned after severe public backlash to the prospective hire. Fans launched a “Stop Steele” campaign and pummeled the Auburn administration and search committee members with emails, texts and tweets voicing their displeasure over Steele getting the job after reports he was a serious candidate.

The campaign worked, making it abundantly clear to the key people, including those that thought highly of Steele, that hiring him was no longer viable.

I’m rather skeptical of Harsin, but we’ll see how he does, and maybe Steele wasn’t the right man for the job. Still, I don’t love this pattern of athletic departments bowing to Twitter campaigns and fan outrage.

That’s about it for now. Have a great day, and may Santa bring everything you want.

Roll Tide.