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Jumbo Package: From the practice field, to closing out games, the Crimson Tide must learn how to finish

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So sayeth the man.

Alabama v Texas A&M Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Happy Birthday to a man I would take a bullet for: Nate F’n Oats.

I’d get you a new $120-million gym if I could, Coach, but you’ll have to settle for some karmic good wishes to prevent catastrophic injuries this season.

Or, you could just do your part and buy some season tickets! They went on sale yesterday! And we are now just over a week from the start of ‘Bama hoops season.

Let’s start in the world of megaconferences, with perhaps one of the dumber notions: merging CUSA and the AAC:

Conference USA executives sent a letter Tuesday, which can be read here, to their brethren at the American Athletic Conference asking them to consider a regionalization model to reorganize the two leagues, sources tell Sports Illustrated.

The proposal, originating from C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod, would require the conferences to remake themselves based on geography, creating two new leagues under different names. C-USA presidents met Monday to approve the decision to reach out to the AAC, seen as the next step in what’s been a weekslong process of drafting reorganization models.

You understand why CUSA would be hot and bothered over this: it’s essentially the MAC with a tan, and having their Southern Misses of the world ride the coattails of the UCFs is good business. But from the AAC’s perspective, it makes little sense.

The league is positioned very well to try and make a run as a Power conference. Even a decade ago, when the Mountain West was the midmajor toast of the town, it was not as top-to-bottom competitive as the AAC is and has been last decade: At various stages over the last half-dozen years, the AAC has seen Temple, SMU, Memphis, UCF, USF, Navy, Tulsa, Houston, Tulane, and of course Cincinnati all ranked. Of those, four have made it into the Top 10, two have played in New Year’s Six bowls, and Cincinnati is in legitimate play for a CFP appearance this season. Even little ole’ East Carolina is rebounding.

Why on god’s earth would the AAC take on C-USA’s dead weight, when its best teams are routinely pasted by several scores against average major conference foes? And especially when they can sit back and pick and choose from those teams that the AAC does want, without having to inherit the UTEPs and Old Dominions of the world.

I’m fairly confident predicting that this doesn’t get beyond an inquiry letter.

I’m not sure I completely believe Mike Leach when he says that the benefit of a bye week is in resting banged up players, and not in preparation. Alabama faces four SEC teams coming off byes this season. It didn’t work out so well for Ole Miss, but...

I don’t think it really helps your preparation a great deal. I mean, you get to string it out a little more, but … you’re gonna be doing basic things that you and you’re trying to select which of those would be the best against a particular opponent. But I don’t think drawing it out helps that way. Sometimes your team may need, I don’t know, to rest up, I guess, or something like that

I almost half-think Nick Saban is relieved that this team finally lost.

In praising his team’s ability to bounce-back, Saban noted that finishing has been a weakness of this team all season — plays, drives, games; but that they are responding well this week in practice.

“We certainly didn’t finish the last game; the last five minutes of the game was not what we needed it to be so that’s something that we have to continue to work on.”

It wasn’t just the end of the game.

“We made too many mental errors, didn’t tackle well early in the game,” he said. “I think that all starts with your mindset in terms of the intensity that you have, the focus that you need to be able to go out there and compete against good players in tough environments.

“That’s as difficult a competitive environment as you’re going to be in. What defines great competitors is people who can be their best when their best is needed.

I can handle a loss to a team that plays better than you. It happens. But I do get an existential wave of disgust watching losses accrue from lack of effort, lack of mental toughness, flat-out laziness, or piss-poor coaching from millionaires (and, yes, Alabama’s coordinators are millionaires). Not all losses are created equal, and remains to be seen how well this team can bounce back down the stretch — Arkansas is nationally ranked; State is a much-improved team (and one that I have been worried about for a few weeks); the Vols’ explosive ground-based offense can present problems for a front seven missing tackles and blowing assignments; even Auburn and LSU have the benefit of rivalries to fuel their motivation. It’s not an easy run, and there’s no time to mope.

With Ed Orgeron already on the hot seat, and Stingley sitting out injured for the rest of the season, comes news this week that DS25’s opposite number, Eli Ricks, has now decided to go ahead and pull the plug on his season as well, and undergo season-ending surgery. As with Stingley, there’s no word on the nature of the injury. Just saying.

The Tigers sit at 3-3 (1-2 in SEC play), and face four more consecutive ranked teams — including Alabama to cap it all off. A month of beatings are coming in Baton Rouge. Bring the popcorn.

Drew Sanders, starting SAM for the Crimson Tide, will miss his second consecutive game for Alabama this week, when ‘Bama travels to Starkville.

Sanders...has been at practice and in a black, no-contact jersey but hasn’t participated in many drills. With that being the case, the sophomore won’t suit up for Alabama’s upcoming road game at Mississippi State.

“He’s not available this week,” head coach Nick Saban said of Sanders. “He’s out there in pads every day, but it’s not safe for him to use his hand yet. So he’s not gonna play this week.”

This probably isn’t the huge loss that it would be against other opponents, as Alabama will almost certainly be in dime for the vast majority of snaps. But it is one more lingering injury on an Alabama front seven that has faced four significant ones already this season.

In terms of fire, there aren’t a whole lot of dogs on this team: Will, Bryce, B Rob come to mind...and my unexpectedly favorite player on the 2021 Crimson Tide: Jameson Williams. (Poor Henry, he just hasn’t been the same after that injury. Maybe the Vols game will help him regain focus).

Williams has been outstanding in stretches this year, and has emerged as Alabama’s best wideout on a group that been fairly disappointing with route running, separation, YAC, and my god all the drops.

Even Saban singled out Jameson yesterday for taking everything seriously — including his Special Teams role (as well as Ja’Corey Brooks).

Yesterday, Jameson was named to the Biletnikoff watch list.

I refuse to believe there are four wideouts better than this guy on the Buckeyes roster. And after seeing him perform at Alabama when given every-down snaps, I’ll bet Ryan Day does too.

This was kind of funny: Yesterday, Crazy Tony was signed by the Raiders, where he joins long-standing nemesis Hunter “listens to false metal” Renfrow.

The Raiders have turned into a summer camp for ‘Bama players, BTW:

Brown became the third Crimson Tide alumnus on the Raiders’ practice squad, joining guard Lester Cotton and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. On its active roster, Las Vegas has running backs Kenyan Drake and Josh Jacobs, offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and nose tackle Damion Square – all former Alabama players.

Given older ‘Bama fans’ emotional connection to the Raiders via Kenny Stabler, this probably brings a smile to the faces of many. Ole’ Snake is probably giving us a toast from the great beyond.

(Unrelated: Can you image all the sketchy shit Kenny Stabler would have gotten into had he been alive to play in Las Vegas?)

“i’M trYiNg t0 pRoTec F0otBall,” said James Franklin — after Penn State suffered a catastrophic, life-changing fake injury upon every big Iowa play in their loss to the Hawkeyes. Guess he took that straight out of Jimbo Fisher / Gus Malzahn / Les Miles clowntown playbook, huh?

I’ve seen a few proposals to curb this. CB suggested two plays, but the one I’m partial to was what the Rule Committee proposed a few years ago: forfeiture of the drive. If a guy is hurt that badly, he can sit for 6-7 plays, right? The defense should not be able to hijack momentum and drives by flopping around like they’ve been felled by a deer rifle (nor should offenses be able to hijack defenses by trapping players on the field with gimmicky ball-setting stunts to get a free play.)

As usual, Charlie Potter at 247 has your complete Nick Saban presser remarks over here.

Here’s a snippet re: Mississippi State’s controlled-passing air raid attack:

“When they throw the ball — I don’t know, I think it’s pretty close to 80 percent of the time — almost on every down, you have to change the way you think. The old-fashioned, gotta stop the run on regular downs and play the passes, you’ve gotta kind of change to, yeah, we’ve got to stop the runs, but we’ve got to play really good pass defense on every down because a lot of their passes are control game, get the ball out quick, short, gain five, seven, catch and runs so you’ve got to break on the ball and tackle well.

If there were ever a week to keep players in front of you, and make tackles at the catch, it’s this one. Even if it’s not a James Dean-sort of sexy demise, death-by-a-thousands cuts can still kill you.

Poll

Who has been your favorite player so far of the 2021 season?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Will Anderson
    (328 votes)
  • 7%
    Bryce Young
    (73 votes)
  • 1%
    Henry To’oto’o
    (11 votes)
  • 30%
    B Rob
    (292 votes)
  • 21%
    Jameson Williams
    (207 votes)
  • 2%
    Evan Neal
    (24 votes)
  • 1%
    Other, answer below
    (13 votes)
948 votes total Vote Now