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Jumbo Package: Bill O’Brien talks Patriots interest ahead of Sugar Bowl

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone. We are now only a day away from Alabama’s New Orleans brunch date with Kansas State. Your previews and predictions:

Vaughn is legitimately great, rushing for 1,425 yards while averaging almost 110 per game, but he’s going against an Alabama defensive unit that let just four teams go over 100 yards rushing on the year.

Saban’s teams are built to withstand close games in the first half, only to explode in the second and wear their opponents down in the fourth quarter. K-State has the stuff to keep it close early, but may not have the power to hold on late.

College Football HQ Sugar Bowl prediction: Alabama 38, Kansas State 20 (Alabama -7, Over 56)

Alabama appears to have advantages in just about every category you can compare in this year’s Sugar Bowl. And if you add in the idea that the Crimson Tide may be out to prove something after missing out on the College Football Playoff, you may want to send thoughts and prayers to Kansas State right now. This has the recipe for a totally one-sided affair in favor of Bama.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Kansas State 17

Kansas State has been surprising people all season, and maybe it has one more surprise left in the tank. But it’s hard to bet against Alabama, even in a down year. Look for the Crimson Tide’s defense to set the tone in this one and Alabama to roll along as it does this time of year. Prediction: Alabama, 38-24.

Alabama won’t roll with ease, but it’ll get up fast and stay in gear the whole way.

Kansas State will come up with its share of good, long scoring drives to keep this interesting throughout, and there will be moments when it looks like the momentum is about to change, and then Bryce Young will make his pitch for being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

There will also be moments when social media wonders aloud if the College Football Playoff might be better with a Nick Saban-coached team in it.

CFN Prediction: Alabama 34, Kansas State 20

Against the spread

ALABAMA -6.5 (-111) is the way to go as the Crimson Tide looking to finish the season strong. Alabama will have the majority of its starters available, despite a few players sitting out to prepare for the NFL Draft.


Alabama may try to make a statement on Saturday that they deserved to be in the College Football Playoffs, so OVER 56.5 (-110) is where I’m leaning. With QB Bryce Young looking to cement himself as the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft, I expect a big game from the talented signal-caller.

Few are predicting another Michigan State situation, but most seem to believe that Alabama will cover somewhat easily in the end. As always, non-playoff bowl games are tough to predict. Had this been a 12-team playoff matchup, it’s hard to believe that Alabama would be favored by only a touchdown. So, basically, you’re betting that Kansas State will be more motivated than Alabama if you take the points.

I don’t think I’d recommend that route, but to each his own.

Saban said they’ve had an outstanding week of practice.

“Well, when you have guys on your team sometimes that — I call them energy vampires — you use all your energy on these guys, trying to get them to do what they’re supposed to do. Those are the kind of guys that don’t end up playing in bowl games, and don’t end up doing the best things and make the best choices and decisions for the team and all that, because they’ve got other motivations, which I’m not being critical of.

“But this team has really worked hard and done really, really well. And a lot of players on our team have made a significant improvement. It’s been one of the most enjoyable bowl practices.”

As we all know, this hasn’t always translated to the field this season. With the transfer portal there to entice young players who aren’t getting the time they’d hoped, more energy vampires developing as the season goes along will probably be something of a norm.

The coordinators were allowed to speak to the media for the first time since August, as Saban continues to control his program and the flow of information like Pyongyang. Bill O’Brien says that he hasn’t spoken with the Patriots since April and wouldn’t understand any criticism of the playcalling.

“I don’t really pay attention to that,” O’Brien said. “Sorry. I don’t know what the criticism would be, but look, we all try to do better. We all try to do the best we can to be as consistent as we can. I think over the last two seasons, we’ve been pretty productive.”

He pointed to how the Crimson Tide (10-2) has averaged about 40 points. Alabama has averaged 40.8 this season heading into the matchup Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN) against Kansas State (10-3). That’s actually a slight improvement over 2021, when Alabama averaged 39.9.

“Are there areas we can be better at? Certainly,” O’Brien said. “There are always areas we can be better at. We work hard to do that. As far as criticism and things like that, that’s probably a question for somebody else.”

Meanwhile, Ja’Corey Brooks said that people who criticize the playcalling “don’t know football” and some other offensive players defended their coach.

“I don’t think that’s fair to Coach. I think Coach does a really good job of putting us in good situations, coming up with a game plan that we can be most successful in and most of the time it comes down to execution. Offensively, all 11 guys have to do their job in order for the plays to be successful. A lot of the time he gets criticized for the things we didn’t execute properly. I don’t think the criticism is fair to O’Brien. I think he’s a really good coach and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

And tight end Cameron Latu didn’t wait until the question was over before speaking his mind on O’Brien.

“Man, I tell everybody this,” he said. “I love O’Brien to death. That’s my guy. The relationship I have with him is tremendous. He’s done a lot for me. And I love him to death.”

O’Brien said multiple times that he loves working under Saban and for Alabama, but he gave a non-answer when asked about his intent to return next season. That likely means he’s headed elsewhere, but we will see. You can watch his entire presser below.

Meanwhile, Pete Golding is as happy as a pig in slop. Nick will have to fire him if he is to leave Tuscaloosa.

“I don’t really get caught up in it,” Golding said in his first interview since early August. “Obviously I try to be the best coach that I can and the best person I can. I got into coaching to affect young men. You can do that whether you’re a position coach, coordinator or head coach.

“I’m in no rush — I’ve said this before — to be a head coach. There’s a lot more to that. I love game planning. I love being in the room with our guys. Obviously I have to do a better job of putting them in a better position and continue to coach them better so they have a better product on the field. But, right now, I’m just worried about K-State and getting through this walk-through tomorrow.”

Will Anderson believes that Golding is a great coach.

According to outside linebacker Will Anderson, the Sugar Bowl serves as an opportunity to prove the mettle of Alabama’s defense and its faith in Golding.

“We have a really good game plan, Coach (Nick) Saban and Coach Pete (Golding) and all the other coaches have been doing a really good job of helping us get in the right places to make sure that we go out there and we play fast and be on the same page and go play to our standard,” Will Anderson said.

Last, women’s basketball opened SEC play with a win that could prove critical later for their NCAA chances.

The Crimson Tide forced 21 turnovers and used those to score 22 points and had 20 points on the fast break. The Crimson Tide allowed the Lady Bulldogs to score 22 points off their 24 turnovers and 12 fast-break points.

The Crimson Tide was able to win the rebound battle 37-27, including 16 offensive boards, but struggled to take advantage with only six second-chance points.

Up next

The Crimson Tide will travel to Tennessee on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT (SEC Network).

Georgia and Alabama were picked to finish ninth and tenth respectively at media days. Needless to say, they need to collect a bunch of wins against the bottom half of the league to have a shot. This one was important.

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

Roll Tide.