While Alabama and Georgia have been dominant, the rest of the SEC has flaws. No. 13 Arkansas, which was steamrolled by Georgia, is the next highest-ranked SEC team. No. 16 Kentucky is undefeated but struggled to put away Missouri and FCS program Chattanooga. Florida, LSU and Texas A&M have flopped and already have two losses.
The Big Ten, meanwhile, has four unbeaten teams (Iowa, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State) and perhaps the best one-loss team in the Buckeyes, if they continue to get better on defense. Maryland and Rutgers are better than they’ve historically been, which admittedly isn’t saying much, and Nebraska is actually showing a pulse after falling early. Of course, we probably won’t know which league is ultimately better until the postseason, and we all know how that has gone for the Big Ten over the years.
This is a good article from Mark Schlabach at ESPN that hits on the highlights of some of the bigger storylines across college football, including a whole section of warning people not to be so quick to crown Georgia as the new “team to beat” in the SEC.
And he’s right, the Big 10 has actually been playing some quality football. Of course, I fully expect Harbaugh and Franklin to drop a game or two for Michigan and Penn State, no matter how talented those teams actually are.
“I think it’s a real challenge for the defense when they can see multiple guys touching the ball, so they can’t play just for one person, can’t game plan for just one person,” he said. “Have to game plan for a bunch of receivers touching the ball, multiple running backs touching the ball. I think that’s real good for us and creates a problem for the defense.”
Three different players have led the Tide in receptions this season with Metchie doing it twice.
Tight end Jahleel Billingsley’s reemergence from the early-season doghouse included nine catches over the past two games for 152 yards as Alabama’s taken advantage of his mismatch in secondaries. And fellow tight end Cameron Latu leads the team with five touchdown receptions among his nine catches.
Whatever it was that got Jahleel Billingsley benched for the first quarter of the season, I’m very glad it seems to be in the past. The dynamic tight end has made a big difference in the Alabama offense the last two weeks, and he’s quickly becoming Bryce Young’s go-to target on third downs in that intermediate passing range.
Combined with Latu, and Alabama looks to have the best duo of pass-catching tight ends we’ve ever had under Nick Saban. It almost reminds you of that time Bill O’Brien was calling plays for a young Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
This fall, Moore has played in all five games with three starts. The Trussville, Ala., native has accounted for seven tackles and one interception while, for the last few games, splitting reps at Star with fellow sophomore Brian Branch. Head coach Nick Saban said he wants to play both players, who he views as starters, and UA has alternated the two in its nickel sets.
Moore also played safety to start the 2021 season when DeMarcco Hellams was sidelined by an ankle injury, and of course, the second-year defensive back contributes on special teams. As he progresses through Year 2 at Alabama, he has a better grasp of his and others’ duties.
“I would say I have a better understanding of the playbook, I have a better understanding of what multiple positions do – even sometimes like the linebackers and certain calls that we have,” Moore said. “And I think that’s been the biggest thing for me just so I can see what everybody else’s job is, and if they’re not in the right spot, I can get them in the right spot.
“I think that’s the thing I worked on the most.”
I still think that the best configuration of the Alabama secondary would be to use Malachi Moore at free safety, Brian Branch at Star, and DeMarcco Hellams as the Money “Dimebacker.”
Obviously, I don’t see what the coaches see in practice, but Branch has shown the best ability to blow up blockers and make tackles on screens and I want to see him on the field as often as possible.
“We’ve got to be able to use different cadences and we’ve got to be locked in to what our assignment is,” Owens said Tuesday. “When you’re dealing with crowd noise like that, there’s minimal communication that is verbal. You’ve got to be able to use hand signals and you’ve got to know what’s the deal and especially you’ve got to anticipate the snap count. We know we won’t be able to hear anything, there won’t be much communication between us and Bryce unless he comes right up to the line of scrimmage.”
The noise in Gainesville became an issue a few times Sept. 18 when Alabama played its first true road game since 2019. It was flagged for a delay of game on the opening drive, though Alabama recovered and scored a touchdown.
The first false start came later in the quarter but three more followed in the second half when Florida began its comeback from 21-3 down.
“I think the biggest thing we learned was something that Coach Saban has mentioned us a couple of times, that you can’t allow the home crowd to get back in the game, especially if you’re playing really well because they are just going to feed off that momentum,” Owens said.
Kyle Field is always a tough venue, and the Aggie fans can be quite loud with all of their 12th man theatrics. However, their fanbase is a bit dejected at the moment, so while they’ll start loud, I imagine some early merciless scoring will totally take the crowd out of things.
“He had a great time of course,” Stewart said. “I think the biggest thing, he got to sit in with Coach (Nick) Saban and Coach (Pete) Golding for about 30 minutes before he went out. He said he really enjoyed that he got to sit in on a meeting and see the way they did things. He said it was an awesome experience to watch them work.”
Led by Golding’s efforts, Alabama is obviously a program Manning is taking a close look at. Georgia, Texas, Clemson and the Rebels are a few of the others.
“Pete Golding has been recruiting him a long time,” Stewart said. “He’s one of the first coaches on him and I think he’s developed a good relationship with Arch and (his dad) Cooper. My goodness going back to his freshman year they’ve been able to start formatting that and he’s been able to Zoom and meet with Coach Saban a number of times. It’s a great program and (Arch) did say many times their strength of conditioning and level of detail, I think that’s the biggest thing, the organization of it and how they do everything. He’s got a great relationship with our strength coach and he likes that stuff and he really likes those nuances at Alabama. He’s been nothing but impressed.”
Watching Lane Kiffin make a fool of himself as Alabama will full death star mode on Ole Miss had to have been the best possible outcome of that game in terms of swaying Arch Manning towards the Tide. Plus, it seems like Saban, Golding, and the S&C crew are giving their best efforts to recruit the QB.
Of course, I still don’t think a Manning will come to Tuscaloosa. If he does, though, can you imagine the level of meltdown across the nation?
Five former Alabama players scored touchdowns during Week 4 in quarterbacks Jalen Hurts (Eagles) and Mac Jones (Patriots), running backs Najee Harris (Steelers) and Derrick Henry (Titans) and wide receiver Amari Cooper (Cowboys). Both Hurts and Jones accounted for two touchdowns apiece, while Harris scored the first rushing touchdown of his career. Rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith (Eagles) posted his first 100-yard receiving game on Sunday.
Defensively, cornerback Trevon Diggs (Cowboys) continued his weekly trend of recording an interception. He picked off two passes in Dallas’ win over Carolina, giving him five on the year to lead the league, and Diggs is only the second Cowboy to intercept a pass in each of the team’s first four games. Linebacker C.J. Mosley (Jets) registered the most tackles in Week 4 with 13, while his teammate, Quinnen Williams (Jets), finished with a couple of sacks.
Finally, Charlie Potter has you covered with his weekly Bama in the pros roundup. The Tide, as usual, made big appearances in nearly every game. Trevon Diggs in particular has been the best cornerback in the NFL through the first quarter of the season. I think the sheer quantity of interceptions isn’t sustainable just based on variance, but now that he’s gotten the headlines, QBs are going to start avoiding him and he’ll start developing a reputation as an elite guy.
I stand by the fact that he was severely underrated at Alabama due to missing part of 2018 with a broken foot and giving up a single bad play to Ja’Marr Chase in 2019.
If Diggs can sustain his solid play, he’s going to wind up being very, very rich in a year and a half.