Alabama Crimson Tide

High Tide

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The SEC Championship Game saw #1 Alabama (10-0) face off against #7 Florida (8-2).

These two programs played in the first SEC Championship Game in 1992. This was a matchup of two historically great programs, but it also determined the Heisman winner.

Mac Jones and Kyle Trask were the two frontrunners to win the Heisman and they did not disappoint.

This was the first real test for the Crimson Tide against a Gators team that would not quit. This is the case of the best player on the best team versus the best player in college football.

Mac Jones threw for 418 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Najee Harris rushed for 178 yards and scored five TD’s. DeVonta Smith caught 15 receptions for 184 yards and two scores. It was enough to win a 52 – 46 shootout in Atlanta.

“Those guys are pretty phenomenal. They have been all year,” Nick Saban said. “They certainly delivered tonight when we needed them to.”

The Gators trailed 35 – 17 at halftime but they scored a couple of third quarter touchdowns and held Alabama scoreless. They scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Bama scored 17 points.

Kyle Trask threw for 408 yards and 3 touchdowns.

“We were rolling pretty good,” said Trask. “We just ran out of time.”

Harris was the MVP of the game. He had 31 carries for 178 yards, but he also caught 5 passes for 67 receiving yards and turned three of those into scores.

“I’ve been catching the ball since birth,” he quipped. “People don’t expect it because of the running back name, but I can catch.”

Harris set an SEC championship game record with his five touchdowns, breaking the mark of four scored by Auburn’s Tre Mason in 2013. The Alabama senior also broke a couple of school records, setting new standards for career rushing TDs (44) and overall TDs (54).

Kadarius Toney led the Gators with 8 receptions for 153 yards 1 TD. Tight end Kyle Pitts had 7 catches, 129 yards and a touchdown. Florida’s leading rusher only had 2 carries for 24 yards. I think the lack of offensive balance has been a problem all season that came back to haunt them in this game.

“I thought we showed a lot of character,” coach Dan Mullen said. “That was an excellent team we played … give them credit. That’s why they’re ranked No. 1 in the country.”

This win completed an undefeated season for Alabama. They are the clear favorites going into the College Football Playoff.

“This has been a year with a lot of disruptions,” said Saban, who had his own bout with COVID-19. “The resiliency this team has shown this season to win 11 games is pretty phenomenal.”

The only team that I think is capable of beating Alabama is Clemson. The Tigers would not see them until the National Championship, assuming both teams win. They beat #2 Notre Dame 34 – 10 in the ACC Championship Game.

Striking the Pose

By: Robert Craft news services

The Heisman race is narrowing down to a two-man race, but it’s tightening up at the same time heading into the final week before conference championship games begin.

Mac Jones and Kyle Trask have separated themselves from the pack, but players like Desmond Ridder, (QB, Cincinnati) Najee Harris, (RB, Alabama) Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU) Trevor Lawrence, (QB, Clemson) Justin Fields, (QB, Ohio State) Jaret Patterson, (RB, Buffalo) and Breece Hall, (RB, Iowa State) have made major impacts in the 2020 season.

The Heisman trophy went to the best player in college football once upon a time. Today, the Heisman goes to the top quarterback on any winning team.

Last year at this time, Joe Burrow was being announced as the 2019 Heisman trophy winner after putting up early-gen PlayStation stats.

Burrow completed 402 passes for 5,617 yards and 60 touchdowns in 15 games. He also threw 44 touchdowns in the regular season.

The two front runners in this year’s Heisman race will have only played 10 regular season games, and only against SEC teams.

The voting deadline has been moved back to December 21st with finalists announced on Christmas Eve.

For the first time, voters will judge a Heisman winner on his conference championship game. That game being the SEC Championship in Atlanta on December 19th.

Mac Jones runs the Alabama offense at an exceptionally high level while putting up crazy numbers in the process. Against LSU, Jones completed 20-28 passes for 385 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Now that gives the first-year starter over 3,100 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and only three interceptions. It obviously helps having a stacked offense including DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris, but Jones puts throws on the money and is a tough quarterback to stop.

Kyle Trask has brought the Fun & Gun back to Gainesville. Trask has no problem chucking the ball around without much of a running game.

Trask’s ability to make smart decisions and avoid mistakes helps make that a winning formula for the Gators offense.

As absurd as it may sound, Trask is on a better scoring pace and on the same yardage pace as last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Trask ignited the Heisman talk by leading the Gators victory of Georgia Bulldogs 44-28.

Trask was 30-43 for 474 yards passing 4 touchdowns and a pick. Trask’s ability to place the ball where only his teammate can make the catch is amazing.

That’s how good the Gators quarterback has been with over 3,200 yards and 38 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions with the season finale against LSU this Saturday.

The Heisman race might come down to the SEC Championship game in a couple weeks, but barring a complete drop off from Kyle Trask against LSU, it’s hard to imagine Jones catching Trask in this race.

One question to all my readers, if you took both quarterbacks off their respective teams, which team would be affected more?

The Heisman Race

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

Normally this time of year means the college football regular season is almost over.

Due to the pandemic, the season was delayed for several conferences like the Big Ten and Pac 12. I’m going to take a look at the top five Heisman Trophy candidates.

Kyle Trask/ Florida: I feel like he should be the hands down favorite at this point. It’s hard to believe this guy was sitting on the bench behind Feleipe Franks.

Earlier in the season I said he’s this year’s Joe Burrow. I don’t think anybody can match Burrow’s video game like stats from 2019 but I’m talking about the drastic improvement he made. Also, both of them were not expected to play at that level going into their final season.

They have had the LSU game postponed due to several players on the team having COVID. I hope that game can get played in December so Trask can play the maximum amount of games.

He led the Gators to a win over No. 5 Georgia that they desperately needed. The defense is not very good, so they basically have to outscore their opponents. Trask is basically good for at least four passing TD’s every game.

Trevor Lawrence/ Clemson: He’s the clear consensus as the best quarterback and number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, he had COVID and had to miss two games.

One of them was at No. 4 Notre Dame and that could have been his Heisman moment.

The Tigers like to run the ball with All-American running back Travis Etienne so that takes away from Lawrence’s stats.

If he plays well against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship that could catapult him to the top of the Heisman list.

Travis Etienne/ Clemson: I know this has become a quarterback award but he really deserves consideration.

He’s a true dual threat running back and his number are very good.

Mac Jones/ Alabama: He has the Crimson Tide undefeated (6-0) and he’s playing very well. Jones has thrown for 2,196 yards (8th), 16 TD’s (tied-13th), 2 interceptions with a 95.6 QBR (2nd).

He’s on the best team and I think Bama will finish undefeated. His stats are impressive because Alabama is another team that likes to run the ball. Najee Harris has over 700 yards rushing.

The LSU game has been postponed due to a Coronavirus outbreak in the program. We don’t know if that game will actually get played but that would be an easy win for Bama.

The only challenge should be against Florida in the SEC Championship.

Justin Fields/ Ohio State: The Buckeyes have only played three games because the Big Ten started the season late and the Maryland game was canceled.

Fields only has 7 games to make a case as the best player.

I Have The Power

By: Kipp Branch news services

Thanksgiving is almost upon us in the pandemic-stricken football season of 2020.

Just this weekend alone you have four games in the SEC that have been postponed and scheduled for a later date due to the Coronavirus. Will we make it through the regular season?

Who knows that answer, but here are my SEC Power Rankings at this point of the season:

Alabama: The Crimson Tide hung 52 points on Texas A&M. Alabama hung 41 on Georgia before Georgia’s defense was officially exposed as a fraud.

Mac Jones and Najee Harris are Heisman candidates.

This defense is starting to come around, and there is no team in the conference that will stand in their way on a cruise to the SEC Championship.

Florida could pose some problems, but that defense can’t stop a faucet drip.

Nick Saban is still the best in the business. Alabama’s offense might be better than a couple of NFL teams that are in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. SEC Champion and College Football playoff team.

Texas A&M: By virtue of beating Florida the Aggies land here.

The Aggies played awful against Alabama, but doesn’t everyone not named Auburn and LSU once every 8 years?

Jimbo Fisher is in position to get a College Football playoff bid without winning a conference championship if his team can run the table and finish 9-1 in this pandemic season.  This team is improving weekly.

Florida: The Gators got over the UGA hurdle last week, but UGA left three TD’s on the field with awful QB play.

Kyle Trask may be the Heisman front-runner at the moment.

Dan Mullen needs to get something out of this season because Trask will not be back next year.

This defense can’t stop an elite team like Alabama. I see Florida finishing the season with a 10-2 record with a nice NY6 Bowl win over someone to be determined.

This offense is really good, and they just completed another 40-yard wheel route to a running back on Georgia.

Mullen still has a month to fix this defense before the Alabama SEC title game.

Georgia: UGA lands here by default.

The QB room is a mess and the defense can’t stop a good college passing offense.

UGA may finish 8-2 who knows, but last weekend in Jacksonville left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Bulldog Nation.

Carson Beck needs to get his shot Kirby.

Auburn: With the win over a bad LSU team Gus may have survived once again.

Perception is reality you know.

This is a team that did not score a TD against UGA.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks are the most improved team in the SEC.

“The Pit Boss” Sam Pittman is the SEC coach of the year. Arkansas is the SEC feel good story of the year. The Hogs are 3-3 currently and are a pretty decent football team.

Ole Miss: The Rebels have the third best offense in the SEC.

Once Lane Kiffin can shore up that defense with a couple of recruiting cycles look out SEC.

This is an exciting team to watch.

LSU: Yeah, we know the Tigers lost 14 players to the NFL draft, but damn this is LSU.

Covid-19 delayed a monumental beating from Alabama this weekend, but don’t worry LSU its coming in December.

Tennessee: You can shake 9-14 up in a bag.

Tennessee should be better than this.

Missouri: The Tigers are rebuilding and show signs of life.

South Carolina: Hugh Freeze is sitting by the phone Carolina fans.

Kentucky: Watching this offense is like staring at paint drying.

Mississippi State: The Air Raid is a dud in the SEC. The LSU game was fool’s gold against an awful defense.

Vanderbilt: Baseball season will start soon Vandy fans.

Power Rankings in Coastal Georgia seem to be a hot topic these days.

The More Things Change….

By: JJ Lanier news services

As we approach the middle of the college football season and the Big 10 and PAC-12 look to start their schedules, I want to take a minute and look back at a few things that have stuck out up to this point.

To begin with, the Top 25 rankings have about as much relevancy as the Art Appreciation class you took second semester your Junior year. I get it’s only fair to rank the teams that have actually played, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bit misleading.

Trying to do this without including teams from two of the major conferences is like listing the best Adam Sandler movies, but only including those that have gone straight to Netflix; North Carolina is a perfect example.

If this were any other year the Tarheels would be a fringe Top 20 team, but instead they were ranked 5th before losing to Florida State- they were basically Hubie Halloween.

Secondly, the SEC has dropped all pretense about trying to give off the perception they are a defense first league.

The conference has been trending this way for a few years now, but even those stalwarts who hung their arguments about the defense on the lone 12-9 game every year can’t really argue at this point.

That’s not to say the SEC is the Big 12 where recruiting a defensive player is akin to begrudgingly drafting a player in the youth league because their dad volunteered to coach.

The SEC still has a plethora of talent on that side of the ball, it’s just the level of talent they’re seeing on the offensive side of the ball has grown exponentially.

It’s no surprise though, when you look at some of the coaches the conference has brought in recently; many of whom are offensive-minded.

I give the coaches and athletic directors a lot of credit for changing with the times; it’s one of the reasons the conference has been as dominant as it has been recently.

And finally, Alabama and Clemson are The Andy Griffith Show. When I was 8 years old, I woke up Christmas morning to find a color tv in our living room.

The first show that was on when I turned the power on was Andy Griffith. Being eight and not realizing that the show was filmed in black and white, I thought the tv was broken and automatically became upset until my parents changed the channel.

Point being, we all came into this season expecting to see something different, but Clemson continues to dominate a less than impressive ACC, and the one team I thought might be able to defeat Alabama, Georgia, could only hang for a half. (For what it’s worth, I think Georgia is closer to Alabama than the final score showed, but they’re not there, yet,)

We’re basically in the middle of a five-year tv marathon starring Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, and we’re not in a position to just be able to change the channel.

It’s easy to look at these things I’ve mentioned and think they’ll change once everyone starts playing, but I don’t believe they will.

The Top 25 will still be difficult to rank based on the disparity of games played, you’ll continue to see high scoring games in the SEC, and in the end it will all come down to Alabama and Clemson. Even Barney Fife knows that.

I Will Take My Talents To…

By: Robert Craft news services

With the Early Signing Period in the rearview mirror and bowl season over, the last big day for college football before spring practice is National Signing Day.

With many of the top recruits from the 2020 class already signed, who is left for the top programs to pick up on Wednesday, February 5th?

Five Star Running Back Zack Evans is the number 1 running back in the class of 2020.

By far the wildest recruitment of the 2020 cycle. Evans signed a LOI (Letter of Intent) with the Georgia Bulldogs back in December, got cold feet, and asked to be released from his LOI.

Georgia obliged and now Evans is back on the market as an extremely talented athlete with some off the field issues.

This recruitment still seems very cloudy through, as Evans has left a lot of coaches guessing. This is shaping up to be a Tennessee, Ole Miss and Georgia battle. Alabama, Florida and LSU have rescinded their offers over the past few weeks.  My Pick: Georgia

Four Star Safety Avantae Williams backed off his early commitment to the Oregon Ducks back in December.

Williams is the 9th ranked safety in the 2020 class.

He is a hard-hitting safety that can cover a lot of ground. Williams’ recruitment is a battle between Miami, Florida and Georgia. My Pick: Florida

Four Star Offensive Lineman Sedrick Van Pran has been committed to Georgia since August.

Van Pran has taken official visits to Alabama and is scheduled to be at Florida this weekend.

With the departure of former Offensive Line coach San Pittman, Van Pran seems to have opened up his recruitment. It would be shocking if Van Pran is not a Bulldog come National Signing Day. My Pick: Georgia

Four Star Running Back Jahmyr Gibbs has been committed to Georgia Tech since May.

After a very strong senior season, Gibbs has received offers from Ohio State, LSU, Georgia and Florida.

While Florida and Ohio State have put on the full court press, Gibbs will stay firm to his commitment. My Pick: Georgia Tech 

Four Star Athlete Damarcus Beckwood has hopes of playing college football and basketball.

The 6-foot-4, 220 pounder is a versatile weapon on offense playing both wide receiver and tight end in high school.  This is a battle between Tennessee and Florida. My Pick: Florida 

February 5th marks the final day of the 2020 recruiting cycle. National Signing Day will still be important as there are a couple highly touted 2020 high school prospects that remain uncommitted.

And there will always be the few flipped prospects that make headlines on National Signing Day.

Since Dan Mullen’s time at Florida, the Gators have used the transfer portal to pluck talented players. The Gators have landed four star Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes in Mullen’s first year at Florida.

Last season, the Gators landed five-star defensive end, Brenton Cox.

This season is much different, the Gators signed a pair of five stars in running back Lorenzo Lingard and wide receiver Justin Shorter. Both players have applied for waivers with the NCAA.

Kirby Smart used the portal to add quarterback Jamie Newman. Newman has one season of eligibility and should be the front runner for QB1 for the Bulldogs.

Can Newman do what Joe Burrow did for LSU?

Saban Rolling Out?

By: JJ Lanier news services

The other day the Southern Sports Edition posted a story “The Question of the Day”, which consisted of 50 questions the southern sports fan should ask concerning sports in our region.

There were a lot of intriguing questions asked- you should give it a read if you haven’t already- but the one that stuck out to me was “How much longer will Nick Saban coach?”

I knew Saban was older than I originally thought (he’s 67 to be exact), but I hadn’t really spent much time pondering how much longer he’ll actually continue to coach.

It’s difficult to gauge the happiness of someone who is obviously allergic to smiling and showing joy more than once a month, but when you’ve dedicated your life to something and had the type of success Saban has achieved, you just don’t think of that person giving it up.

I admit, I don’t really pull for anyone in the SEC, so I can understand how that conversation may come up a little more often amongst fans.

If I had to guess, and that’s strictly what this is, I would say it’ll be at least 4-5 more years before Saban calls it quits.

Since 2008, Saban’s second season at Alabama, the Tide have finished tied for first or won the SEC West outright in every year except two, 2010/2011.

Over his tenure he has won 5 National Championships, 6 SEC titles, regularly finishes in the top 3 in recruiting and just happens to be the highest paid college football coach.

I realize at some point all those things pale in comparison to allure of stepping away from the stress of the job, but when you’re on a roll like that, it makes it more difficult.

No matter when Saban decides to hang it up, part of the fun is trying to predict who will take the reins once it happens.

I think the first call obviously has to be to Dabo Swinney. I don’t think he’d take it- Clemson gave him an opportunity and you could argue they are premier program in college football- but he does have a history with Alabama and you can never underestimate just how convincing some boosters can be.

The second call I’m making- it’s at this point you may throw whatever you’re reading this on against the wall and figure out some way to put a voodoo curse on me- is Kirby Smart.

Again, much like Swinney I’m not saying Smart would take the bait, but depending on what happens over the next few years in Athens, I wouldn’t completely discount it.

After those two, it’s a who’s who of coaches they could go after. Do they stay within the Saban coaching tree and go after someone like Jimbo Fisher or Mark Dantonio? Or, do they go outside the “family” and hire someone with nonties to either Alabama or Saban?

Outside of Swinney and Smart, it would probably be in Alabama’s best interest to look outside the program. There are plenty of decent coaches with a connection to Alabama, but I think you’d be looking at Matt Doherty with UNC type situation as opposed to their current one with Roy Williams.

There are more pressing questions with immediate repercussions, but when it comes to our region’s most popular sport and the one man who has had a stranglehold in the SEC, the timing of his departure, and what may follow, just might be the most important one of all.

How The West Was Won

By: Kipp Branch news services

Why don’t we take a look at the toughest division in all of College Football and that, my friends, is the SEC West.

Here are my SEC West Predictions for 2019:

Alabama 12-0: Tua will be the frontrunner for the Heisman, and Najee Harris may be the best overall running back in the SEC when it is said and done production wise.

The Alabama receiving corps with headlined by Jerry Jeudy are the best in college football.

Nick Saban is the best in the business, and the Tide has the best starting 22 players in the country.

LSU comes to Bryant-Denny, but dangerous road trips to Texas A&M and Auburn seem to be the only hurdles on the regular season slate. Alabama heads to Atlanta for another epic showdown with Georgia for the SEC Title.

LSU 9-3: Coach O has got the Tigers headed back in the right direction.

Joe Burrow is back under center for a second straight season. John Emery is coming in at running back, and LSU has the best defensive backfield in the conference.

With that said this team is not going to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. A tough road game at Texas in week 2, and dangerous SEC road trips to Starkville and Oxford in mid-season. I think the Tigers drop one of those Magnolia State road trips.

Texas A&M 8-4: This schedule is brutal with the SEC West slate plus Clemson and Georgia. Is this team ready for primetime?

The Aggies lost their leader rusher and tackler from 2018. Is Kellen Mond an elite SEC QB? Jimbo Fisher is an elite coach, but it’s still too early to proclaim the Aggies as great in this division.

The Aggies will lose to Alabama and LSU in the West this year.

Auburn 8-4: Gus Malzahn is sitting on the hottest seat in the conference.

Who is going to be the starting QB? Will a running back up to Auburn historical standards surface? The front seven on defense will be solid and Derrick Brown may be the best defensive lineman in the conference.

Who knows about this team? Georgia and Alabama come to Jordan-Hare. Brutal schedule with the opener in Dallas against Oregon and a trip to Florida make it hard to predict big things for the Tigers in 2019 which usually means they play in the National Title game right?

A lot of questions right now in Auburn, Alabama. Gus is feeling the heat.

Ole Miss 8-4: This is my SEC West sleeper team. Yes, I see 8 wins on the schedule.

This team has some talent on offense with Matt Corral at QB. Ole Miss always has productive wide receivers. Can this defense hold up is the question?

I think the Rebels come back in 2019 after the probation period and go bowling.

Rich Rodriguez may have struggled as a head coach, but he is one of the best offensive coordinators in the business. This offense will cause problems in the SEC.

Mississippi State 6-6: The Bulldogs are going to struggle in 2019.

How do you lose three first round draft picks on defense from 2018 and improve on that side of the ball?

MSU gets in a bowl at 6-6 and the heat starts getting turned up on Joe Moorhead in 2020. Keytaon Thompson has talent at QB. The jury is out on the Bulldogs.

Arkansas 4-8: Chad Morris is in a total rebuild in Fayetteville.

It is going to take a couple more recruiting classes for Arkansas to be competitive again. Proud program that let a Big 10 coach come in and drive it over a cliff. Hog fans need to be patient with Chad Morris.

Bowl Teams: Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State

Division upset of the year: Ole Miss over LSU in Oxford on 11/16. LSU suffers a letdown after losing to Alabama on 11/9.

SEC Championship Game: Georgia over Alabama

Coach Em Up

By: JJ Lanier news services

At the end of every season, regardless of the sport or the level of competition, there is turnover within the coaching ranks.

While a school like UCLA, who fired Steve Alford over three months ago, is still searching for his replacement, SEC schools have been hiring coaches as if they were contestants on “Supermarket Sweep.” In the span of basically two weeks, they filled their four vacant positions.

Alabama: Nate Oats. I don’t follow the inner workings of the Alabama basketball program, so unless there was some sort of internal dysfunction taking place, I was a bit surprised to see them let Avery Johnson go.

Putting my initial reaction aside, I think the Oats hiring has been the best hire, up to this point. The two time MAC Coach of the Year exceeded expectations at Buffalo and has already made an impact in Tuscaloosa, convincing John Petty to take his name out of the transfer portal and stay at Alabama.

His biggest task though is being just as persuasive with All-SEC player, Kira Lewis, whose name is still in the portal. If he can convince Lewis to return, Oats’ inaugural season with the Crimson Tide could be a very successful one.

Texas A&M: Buzz Williams. The former Hokies coach is certainly an upgrade from Billy Kennedy. In his eleven years at Marquette and Virginia Tech, Williams’ teams only twice failed to win 20 games, and only missed out on the NCAA Tournament three times.

It may take a year or two for that success to transfer to the Aggies, but there’s nothing in his past to make you think it won’t ultimately happen.

He doesn’t always have the best demeanor with fans and the media, and while that has absolutely nothing to do with his team’s on the court performances, it should make for some interesting columns in College Station.

Vanderbilt: Jerry Stackhouse. This was an interesting hire just because Stackhouse hasn’t been a name thrown around in the college circles that much, but I have to give Vanderbilt credit for thinking outside the box.

Stackhouse has minimal head coaching experience- he had a short stint in the D-League where he did win Coach of the Year in 2017- and I have no idea how he’ll do on the recruiting trail.

He does have a very good reputation on the NBA level though, and obviously did a good job developing his players in the D-League; hence the COY award.

Personally, I’ve always liked Stackhouse- as much as a Duke fan can like a Carolina player- so I hope he’s able to succeed.

Arkansas: Eric Musselman. Musselman’s a decent coach, but besides Nevada’s Elite 8 run in the tourney last year, I’m not sure there’s anything in his coaching past that makes you think he’s going to be the answer.

I guess when you haven’t made the Sweet Sixteen since 1996 you’re kind of forced to take whomever you can get. I’m not wishing for the guy to fail, but if you were to ask me which of these four will be the first to go, my money would be on Musselman.

The level of play within the SEC has drastically improved over the past few years, so all four coaches have their work cut out for them.

The question now is “Will they make the grade, or will they be forced back on the shelf, waiting for the next coaching cart to swing by and pick them up?”