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Jumbo Package: National media have mostly written off the Tide

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

University of Tennessee vs University of Alabama Set Number: X164200 TK1

Happy Friday, everyone. Bye weeks are never fun for the fans, but the team needed it this year more than any in recent memory. Hopefully they are getting healed up and ready to close strong.

Exactly none of the major publications is picking Alabama to make the playoff at this point.

USA TODAY: Sugar Bowl vs. TCU (Dec. 31)

247Sports: Sugar Bowl vs. TCU

Sporting News: Sugar Bowl vs. TCU

Bleacher Report: Sugar Bowl vs. TCU

That seems like just the kind of anti-rat poison Saban desires.

A pair of freshman linemen have made impacts this season.

Pleasant surprise: Tyler Booker

The freshman has managed to split time with two experienced guards in a platoon system rarely seen on the offensive line, where the need for chemistry and continuity typically precludes rotational substitutions. His pass-blocking grade of 86.7 from PFF is the best of any UA guard, and ranks 15th among 577 guards nationally.

Top freshman: Jaheim Oatis

On early downs, the newcomer to the Alabama defensive line has been a force against inside runs. He missed Alabama’s win over Mississippi State, but still has 20 tackles and has been as effective as any UA freshman, true or redshirt.

Following his poor game in Knoxville, Demarcco Hellams says he has drawn a line in the sand.

“It’s all about finishing,” defensive back DeMarcco Hellams said. “It doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says. To us, the scoreboard is always 0-0, so whenever somebody gets in the end zone, that’s always something that we don’t wanna allow. It doesn’t matter if it’s the last play of the game, we always wanna keep the opponent out of the end zone.”

Although the offenses the Tide faced in Week 7 and 8 were different, there was a difference in the mentality of the Alabama defense after what was a disappointing outcome in Knoxville.

“At some point, enough has to be enough,” Hellams said. “We just all took that mindset together as a defense and just said we can’t allow things to keep compiling, and at some point, when bad plays do happen, we have to say, ‘OK, that’s enough.’ No more bad plays, no more penalties and just playing more consistently as a defense and as a team.”

If the entire team has that mentality then you like their chances to bounce back and win the SEC. Talk is cheap, of course. We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.

Hendon Hooker is ESPN’s most impactful college football transfer.

It’s hard to argue any transfer player has had more impact on their respective team than Hooker has with Tennessee. Hooker transferred from Virginia Tech before the 2021 season as Joe Milton III’s backup. He replaced the injured Milton in the second game of last season and finished with 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, entering this season as the Vols’ QB1.

Now, Hooker has taken the Vols to new heights, leading them to a 7-0 record and College Football Playoff hopes, defeating Alabama, LSU and Florida along the way. In those three games, Hooker threw for 973 yards and nine touchdowns, rushing for 224 more as well.

“[Hooker] played at an unbelievable level,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said after the Vols upset then-No. 3 Alabama 52-49 on Oct. 15. “He’s the key to our ignition.”

Dare we say that the 24 12 year old Hooker has played like a man among boys? He’s now 5th on ESPN’s QB Draft board. He will be entering the league going into recruiting classmate Tua Tagovailoa’s fourth NFL season.

Last, Tennessee being near the top of the college football heap is part of a disgusting, stomach turning trend.

Clemson has the second-best odds of any team to reach the playoff, according to our model.3 Tennessee is 7-0 for the first time since Tee Martin led the Vols to the 1998 national championship. Illinois sits atop the Big Ten West standings and is off to its best start since 1953. Syracuse, a team literally nicknamed after the color, had its best start since 1987 before losing a close one on the road at Clemson. Oklahoma State recently set a school record with its 13th consecutive home victory and has a 15 percent shot to represent the Big 12 in the playoff according to our model. Oregon State is receiving votes and is already bowl-eligible, a feat it’s only reached once since 2014. Bowling Green State has already matched its season-best win total since 2016. The UTSA Roadrunners have proven last season’s 12-win campaign wasn’t a fluke and currently lead Conference USA standings. Even Texas’ seeming inability to win one-score games under coach Steve Sarkisian can relish its series-best 49-point victory over archrival Oklahoma.4

Hideous. Just hideous.

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

Roll Tide.