Happy Friday, everyone. College football is officially back tomorrow! We will be along with our own “Week Zero” coverage later on, but Yahoo has you covered as well.
Navy vs. No. 13 Notre Dame (2:30 p.m., NBC)
Notre Dame is entering its second season with Marcus Freeman as head coach. The first season under Freeman, who replaced Brian Kelly, was up and down. It featured ugly losses to Marshall and Stanford, but there was also a dominant victory over Clemson and an exciting bowl win over South Carolina.
Entering 2023, the Irish are expected to have much-improved quarterback play thanks to the addition of Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman. Hartman enters his final season of college football having already thrown for nearly 13,000 yards with 110 touchdowns. However, the Irish lost star tight end Michael Mayer to the NFL and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to Alabama and don’t have much proven talent at receiver.
To hear some Alabama fans tell it, losing Tommy Rees was addition by subtraction. Good news is we only have a week before seeing the new look Alabama offense in action.
Cole Cubelic sounds pretty optimistic about the offensive line.
A dominant offensive line would certainly allow Saban to play to his defense, which has always been in his blood, while also allowing fewer opportunities for dropped passes.
Is there consistency at wide receiver?
Heightened performance at quarterback has helped Alabama’s offense evolve the past few years. Going hand-in-hand with that upgrade, however, has been the ability to overwhelm opposing secondaries with multiple future NFL Draft picks at wide receiver. Jerry Jeudy, De’Vonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs had as much of a hand in the Crimson Tide fielding one of the most explosive offenses of the College Football Playoff era, and while Bryce Young enjoyed one year of Jameson Williams and John Metchie en route to a Heisman Trophy in 2021, there was a noticeable drop off at the position in 2022.
Leading receivers Jermaine Burton (40 receptions, 677 yards, seven touchdowns) and Ja’Corey Brooks (39 receptions, 674 yards, eight touchdowns) are back along with sophomores Isaiah Bond and Kobe Prentice. Still, the group as a whole received some criticism through spring practice and early fall camp for lack of consistency.
Woody Hayes famously said through the years that only three things can happen when you pass the ball and two of them are bad. Modern college rules favor offenses, however, and elite passing games seem to hang points on any defense nowadays. It’s tough to believe that any team will be able to win anything substantial without, at minimum, an above average passing attack. Hopefully Alabama will have that, and I believe that they will when all is said and done.
Dallas Turner spoke to media yesterday, and was quite insightful.
Little, now a redshirt freshman, was dealing with an injury at the beginning of the 2022 season, but eventually got on the field against Mississippi State, Austin Peay and Auburn. Fellow Alabama defensive back Terrion Arnold touted Little both in the spring and during preseason camp.
“Earl is a great playmaker, great teammate, great guy,” Arnold said. “I’ve seen a lot of different things. I would say the No. 1 thing I’ve seen out of Earl is his maturity. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low and he just continues to come in here and work every day.”
“It’s hard to tell,” Turner said Thursday. “They rotate all the quarterbacks with different teams so like one might go with the first team, one might go with the second team or third team or fourth team, and it changes the next day. The quarterback battle is very challenging but everybody’s good, literally. With the scrimmages, from what I see and during the preseason and stuff like that, it’s iron sharpens iron everyday. So it’s very unique to see.”
For junior outside linebacker Dallas Turner, the speaker that resonated with him the most was Rivers, the longtime NBA coach and player. He connected with Rivers’ message about the 2008 Boston Celtics team that brought in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to join Paul Pierce that went on to win an NBA championship.
“He said everybody had to sacrifice something,” Turner said. “They had to sacrifice something to get to where everybody wants to go. Paul Pierce being on that Celtics team, you know, he was a star player, and he had to cut back on the amount of shots and touches he had because he had guys like KG and Ray Allen and stuff like that. So I feel like if everybody sacrifices one thing, whether it’s on or off the field— everybody just plays their role, the sky’s the limit.”
“One thing that I will say about Kadyn is that your first move is not always gonna beat him,” Turner said. “He’s such a raw talent, and the potential is unmatched, but he knows how to recover very well. So if you beat him on the first move or something like that, the recovery is there, like he’s back at you, like you need another move. He’s very eye-opening, especially being on the O-line with the ones as a freshman too, like that’s impressive.
“Seeing him day-by-day and just seeing him slowly get better, when his time comes, you can tell he’s gonna definitely be one of those ones.”
Last, Chase Goodbread has four big questions for the season, and this one is huge.
3. Will penalties continue to plague?
Of 131 FBS schools, only three averaged more penalties per game last year than Alabama (7.92). In four games, UA drew 10 or more. In its two losses, a combined 26 flags. Bryce Young overcame some of them with high-difficulty third-and-long conversions. An inexperienced quarterback probably won’t. Cleaning up this 2022 scourge has been a preseason emphasis, including a conditioning price to pay for practice offenders. It’s a problem Alabama hasn’t often dealt with in Saban’s tenure, but if the Crimson Tide is to return to championship form, last year had better be an anomaly.
Alabama would have rolled undefeated into Atlanta last year had they simply been average in penalties per game. That simply must improve.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.