Happy Friday, everyone. The Rose Bowl is inching closer, and the bowl games are getting better as well. Today offers some compelling ball for you, starting at breakfast.
Gator Bowl : Clemson vs. Kentucky 11:00 am ESPN
Sun Bowl : Notre Dame vs. Oregon State 1:00 pm CBS
Liberty Bowl : Iowa State vs. Memphis 2:30 pm ESPN
Cotton Bowl : Missouri vs. Ohio State 7:00 pm ESPN
In the “no way you missed it” department, Jalen Milroe told the world that Bill O’Brien suggested a position change for him.
Just days away from leading Alabama into the College Football Playoff semifinal against Michigan, starting quarterback Jalen Milroe said Thursday that former Tide offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien once told him he shouldn’t play quarterback.
“How would you feel if I told you [that] you suck?” Milroe said of what it was like to receive that remark from his former coordinator. “He told me a bunch of positions I could have switched to, but look where I’m at right now. Who gets the last laugh?”
To be fair, it wasn’t unreasonable to wonder even at the end of last season if Milroe could take the necessary step forward to be good enough as a passer. His run trait has always been elite, but to say that his passing was erratic in limited action would be an understatement. Still, considering how much of the fanbase already felt about O’Brien, justified or not, Bill should probably stay away from Tuscaloosa from now on.
Needless to say, Jalen has improved more than most would have imagined.
“I would describe his path as resilience,” said wide receiver Isaiah Bond, forever bonded with Milroe after catching his 31-yard touchdown pass to win the Iron Bowl. “Could have been a lot of points in the season where a regular person could have showed different sides of themselves. He stayed the same leader, same passion about football. Went out there every single day still loving it. I will say I just show true respect for the way he handled the situation as well.”
From there, Milroe returned to the helm, just as Alabama beat Mississippi, 24-10, and the country barely cared. Milroe went from nine touchdown passes and four interceptions across his first five games to 14 touchdown passes and two interceptions across his past seven. He didn’t climb the charts in passing yards per game — his 226.5 rate 46th — but look who’s shining there at No. 4 in passer rating (at 177.48) behind only Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels of LSU, Heisman finalist Bo Nix of Oregon and Kaidon Salter of Liberty.
For some context, Bryce Young never put up a 170 season. Now, that isn’t completely fair since Bryce slung it around significantly more, but Milroe’s legs take defenders out of coverage and allow him to find those chunk plays. If he is able to become a national champion QB after being benched in week three, it will be one of college football’s most fun stories in a while.
And the fact that it will be Alabama’s story will piss everyone off, which makes all that much sweeter.
Alabama’s players are taking precautions against Michigan’s low down, dirty, cheating ways.
“You know, what Michigan is known for,” Alabama running back Jase McClellan said. “What they have out there. Just the play-call stealing.”
Receiver Isaiah Bond said the Catapult game and practice film storage system Alabama uses is at the center of the matter.
“And they were like, I guess, like looking at other people’s play calls like their hands signals,” Bond said. “It was like the first eight games or something like that. We was able to watch film with the team, but personally, we can’t watch film because like, I don’t know, for some reason with Michigan stealing signs. But I’m not really too keen on all that.”
The talent gap on these two rosters is very real.
The CFP era has produced some truly star-studded teams: Georgia in 2021 with five first-round picks on defense; Alabama in 2020 with Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle; LSU in 2019 with Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Yet according to the 247Sports rankings, only one team in the CFP era had a higher overall talent score than 2023 Alabama: 2022 Alabama, which finished 11-2 and missed the CFP.
Alabama has 18 five-star recruits on its roster. Michigan, which ranks No. 14 in the talent composite, has two. Not unrelated, the Crimson Tide had five players in Dane Brugler’s midseason ranking of the top 50 draft prospects and four first-round picks in Brugler’s latest mock draft. Michigan’s only surefire top-50 prospect is quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who has yet to make a draft decision.
Michigan does have more experience, but not by that much. They are going to need their veteran front seven to dominate Alabama’s young players on the offensive line or it will be a long day for them.
And who among you would have guessed that this roster has more recruiting talent on it than the 2020 squad?
Last, they totally weren’t disappointed when it was Alabama instead of FSU, y’all.
Q. Not that you’re scared, but it is — the situation with Jordan Travis, it probably would have been an easier matchup.
MICHAEL BARRETT: Definitely.
Q. Is that a little bit of a letdown when you’re looking at it?
MICHAEL BARRETT: I feel like that probably was the biggest one. FSU, they’re missing one of their best players. Who wouldn’t want to play a team who was missing their starting quarterback for a chance to go to a National Championship Game?
Yeah, I feel like that’s kind of what that shock was. Like, oh, dang, we probably could have caught them slipping or whatever, whatever. At the end of the day, we’re here now. We have who we have, and we’re about to go handle business.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.