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Jumbo Package: A special weekend on the diamonds

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News / USA TODAY NETWORK

Happy Monday, everyone. It was a huge weekend on the diamonds, as baseball was chosen to host a NCAA Regional for the first time in almost two decades, while the softball team overcame adversity and a scrappy Northwestern squad to reach Oklahoma City in Montana Fouts’ final season.

Chase Goodbread penned a nice column on Fouts’ pitching through the knee discomfort.

In the end, she overcame. Even Northwestern, despondent in the loss after taking the opener of the three-game series, tipped a cap to Fouts’ determination.

“She’s an all-time great for the sport. She’s deserved everything she’s gotten,” said Wildcats outfielder Kelsey Nader. “It was an honor to play against her (and) our team wanted to play against the best.”

That they did.

Fouts exited the postgame press conference embracing Jenna Johnson, whose solo homer proved to be the game-winning run, and revealed just what a return to Oklahoma City means to her.

“We’re going home,” she said.

“We’re going home,” echoed Johnson.

When a line drive seemingly hit Montana squarely in her braced knee, you could have heard a pin drop in Rhoads. Fortunately she was no worse for wear. It was a fantastic effort by all of the ladies, with timely hitting by Ally Shipman and what turned out to be a critical homer from Johnson.

Yardbarker put out a top 25 for some reason, and they have Alabama 4th.

The intrigue surrounding Alabama’s prospects for 2023 will be high. Bryce Young is gone, leaving Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson likely in the mix for the starting quarterback job. However, there are other areas that need to improve, like the offensive line and some overall team discipline after committing 103 penalties (accepted) in 2022. While it’s not smart to write off Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide before the season starts, there are more questions than undisputed facts entering the fall. Texas provides an early home test, but Alabama also gets Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU at home, so expect this to be another CFP contender.

AJ Spurr examined some potential roadblocks to Alabama’s run, and the potential for subpar QB play is chief among them.

The three-man battle at quarterback between Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner could lead to a natural leader and starter arising from the competition. However, it could also lead to some insecurity. It’s likely that this race to earn the starting job will bleed into the regular season. No one is sure when a set starting quarterback will be named, which could lead to an inefficient and confused offense. There are some important games early in the 2023 schedule that Alabama cannot afford to drop.

Greg Sankey likes the idea of on campus playoff games.

“The ability to effectively administer the games at campus sites, that rises right to the top,” Sankey said. “How we work collaboratively with bowl games with the thought that they’d continue to be involved in hosting, and even beyond if they’re not in the CFP. It will be interesting to see how the bracket functions, I would anticipate some interest in modifications.”

The new model will definitely present new challenges in the world of college football, from campuses hosting playoff games to the assignment of bowl games in an unfamiliar format.

But 12 teams in the playoffs also means an additional amount of games for teams at an unprecedented level, which will present a fair share of scheduling challenges for Sankey and other college football decision-makers.

That’s one of the few things I can get behind with expansion.

Blake Toppmeyer examines whether the shitkicker charlatans will fare well in the SEC.

While Pinkel describes the SEC as “the greatest league in college football,” he’s bullish about Texas and Oklahoma’s prospects for success.

“I think both teams will do well. I think they fit in with the upper third (of the SEC), whatever those upper third are. People move in and out of (the upper third) all the time,” Pinkel told me recently. “The league went for the best. That’s the attitude of (the SEC).”

Pinkel shared two pieces of wisdom about the transition. One, prepare for physicality. “Tackle to tackle, even the average teams are really good up front,” he said. Georgia’s repeat national championship teams were the epitome of how dominant an SEC team can be in the trenches.

Last, there ain’t much left in the portal where football is concerned.

There are potential hidden gems elsewhere, but the pickings are slim for teams in need of plug-and-play starters at key positions. Former Penn State running back Devyn Ford announced he’s heading to Notre Dame, which fills the void left by Logan Diggs, who departed after spring practice and is enrolling at LSU.

Many of those still undecided in the portal face an uphill climb to find a spot on respective two-deeps given the later stages of the offseason and teams formulating their final roster plans as we speak.

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

Roll Tide.