Category: Alabama

Six Takeaways from the Crimson Tides Spring Game

1. Bryce Young is the future, but plenty of questions remain.

Bryce Young is the QB of the future for Alabama, but the same concerns that I had before the game remained after the Spring. We already knew he has an elite arm and football IQ. The question was his height and weight. I don’t believe his height will be much of an issue. I do still have concerns about his size. He showed a willingness to step up in the pocket and hit his target. However, he also knew the defensive players couldn’t hit him. He looks tiny out there but does have amazing feet when scrambling.

This team will only go as far as Bryce’s health. There is no Jaylen-Tua or Tua-Mac combo in Tuscaloosa right now.

2. The Wide Receivers are young but very talented.

I believe this will be a season of growth for the Tide WR’s. This is not the same as Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy handing over the reigns to Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. There is not that type of experience, but there is plenty of talent.

How quickly they develop will decide how far this offense goes in 2021. Simple things like when to release inside and outside will help this unit grow exponentially. There were three SC top 10 catches but were made out of bounds for this reason and negated. The talent is undeniable, though.

3. The offensive line is a work in progress.

Even the most die-hard Crimson Tide fan knows that the offensive line will see a step backward this season. How far back is impossible to tell at this point. Alabama, like most teams, is fighting some injuries right now on the OL. The lack of continuity was on full display but should be a problem that works itself out with more reps in the fall. Emil Ekiyor, Evan Neal, and Chris Owens will likely be starters, but there are no less than six highly skilled linemen looking to fill the final spots.

4. Expect a big season from the RB’s and TE’s

There is no shortage of running back talent at the University of Alabama. This will likely be one of those seasons where there is a more significant emphasis on the unit than just one player. The Tide has four running backs that could start at most SEC schools because of their ability in both the running and the passing game.

Probably the biggest jump for me was by the TE’s. Jahleel Billingsley and Cameron Latu could end up being the best TE duo in the SEC. With an inexperienced QB, these two could become primary targets.

5. The defense will take a step (maybe two) forward.

The defense is projected to get better just based on the amount of talent they have returning. However, my takeaway is that they may be a step or two ahead of where I thought. They have an excellent pass rush, athletic linebackers, and uber-talented secondary that could mean big things for the Crimson Tide next season.

Can they limit the mental errors that have become synonymous with the Tide defenses the last few years? There were not many in the scrimmage, but Latu’s 59-yard touchdown was costly. For all the criticism Pete Golding has received, it appears he has the defense headed in the right direction quickly.

6. Them Freshman though

The Crimson Tide coming off the highest-rated class in recruiting history, appear to be worth all the hype. If Kool-Aid McKinstry and Agiye Hall are any indications, this class will exceed expectations. Hall’s ability to catch balls in traffic reminded me of UGA wide receive George Pickens right away. Kool-Aid has 1st round written all over him and should be a starter very early into the season.

 

 

Week 3: SEC Previews and Predictions

Florida (-5) vs Texas A&M

Headed into this week’s matchup between the Aggies and the Gators, it seems like a tale of two teams headed in very different directions. Florida must remain focused because the Aggies still have a ton of talent. Florida’s offense does look the part, but for all the offensive fireworks, they only outgained Ole Miss and South Carolina 989 to 942 yards.

I said last week, and I still remain skeptical that the Gators offense will continue to operate with this efficiency as the competition gets tougher. Kyle Trask has been great statistically this season, but there are still some areas of concern. PFF notes, “Of his 21 completions, 18 were to a receiver with more than a couple of steps of separation from the defender. On throws to receivers who weren’t charted as “open” by our graders, Trask went 3-of-10 for 66 yards and one interception.” In other words, he still has some cleaning up to do.

That might not be an issue this week if the Aggies defense does not play much better in the secondary than they did last week against Alabama. Florida does not go over the top as much as Mac Jones and the Tide, but they have to do a better job of pressuring the QB.

On offense, the Aggies need to give the Gators an early and often dose of running back duo Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith. Coach Jimbo Fisher has only had them carry the ball 34 total times in their first two-game. Despite limited carries, they totaled 222 yards for a 6.5 YPC average. Alabama limited the duo, but the Gators are not Alabama on defense.

Score Prediction Florida 38 Texas A&M 28

 

LSU (-14) vs Missouri

LSU secured a bounce-back win last week against Vanderbilt who looked improved in week one against Texas A&M. Derek Stingley Jr. returned to the lineup after missing the opener against Mississippi State and the results were instant.

The Missouri offense, on the other hand, has looked anemic in the first two weeks as they scored just 31 points in losses to the Crimson Tide and Volunteers. After rotating quarterbacks Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak the first two weeks, Coach Eli Drinkwitz has decided to start Bazelak after he went a respectable 13-of-21 for 218 yards against Tennessee.

At this point in the season, no one is going to confuse the 2020 LSU offense for the 2019 version. However, they are averaging 37.5 PPG and startting to find their identity. Quarterback Myles Brennan has thrown over 300 yards in each of his first two starts and the three headed monster at running back is getting healthy.

Missouri is slowly finding some weapons but three straight weeks of top 25 teams is going to take a toll.

Score Prediction: LSU 41 Missouri 17

 

South Carolina (-13) vs Vanderbilt

After a solid performance in week one by the Commodores they got throttled last week against LSU. Their offensive line is just not jelling yet and that is a bad combination when you have the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener in the SEC since 1972.

South Carolina’s offensive line has not been much better to start the season. So when you look at Collin Hill’s stats and see 502 yards and three scores, it is impressive with what he has dealt with. Vanderbilt has not shown the ability to get after the quarterback .

This game will come down to who controls the clock, and South Carolina will make a few big plays when needed.

South Carolina 27 Vanderbilt 13

 

Tennessee vs UGA (-12.5)

Jim Chaney loves balance and the ability to use multiple running backs to carry the load. The Vols are passing for 225.5 YPG and rushing for 182.5 YPG and are 5th in PPG in the SEC at 33.

The offense, however, will have their biggest test of the season with the Georgia Bulldogs defense ready to shine in another prime time game. For Tennessee to be able to win this game, they have to be able to run the football. It won’t be easy as UGA is only giving up 2.32 YPC and hasn’t let a running back rush for a TD in 678 days?

I will be surprised if the Bulldogs have much trouble limiting the Vols running game and while Chaney is the best in the business at hiding his quarterbacks flaws, he will have to let Jarrett Guarantano try to make some plays if the want to win this game.

The big question mark for the DAWGS is can Stetson Bennett keep up the level he has been playing at? For all of the talk of wide receivers not getting seperation for the Bulldogs last season, Bennet has thrown to more open receivers in attempts over 10-plus-yards than any other QB in the SEC.

If Bennett and the offense don’t turn the ball over more than twice, UGA rolls.

UGA 27 Tennessee 14

Arkansas vs Auburn (-14)

This will either be a bounce back win for Auburn or the beginning of the 2021 HC search for the Tigers. The Razorbacks shocked the world by upsetting Mississippi State in week one. However, it is time for people to realize that this Arkansas defense is the most improved unit of this young season.

The question for Auburn is will we get good Bo (Kentucky) or bad Bo (UGA). The Auburn offensive line were manhandled last week and I think Arkansas could find some success against them as well.

The Razorbacks offense has to take a step forward this week if they are going to win this game. Last week against MSU they only gained 1.7 yards per carry. Rakeem Boyd left the game with an ankle injury but has not looked like the running back we expected early in the season. FSam Pittman says he should be ready to go against Auburn but they will need to find more creative ways to get him involved.

I think Auburn gets the win but I don’t think Bo Nix will play well enough to cover the spread.

Auburn 24 Arkansas 17

Alabama (-23) vs Ole Miss

Let me start by saying that Mac Jones and John Metchie III are who I thought they were. My No. 1 breakout pick (Jones) and my No. 6 break out player (Metchie) had another big game last week. Jones has thrown the most catchable ball of anyone this season in college football according to PFF. I would like to see Najee a little more explosive this week as he is averaging 1.3 yards less per carry this season than his career average headed into the year.

As you should know by now, Ole Miss has some true playmakers on their team. Matt Corral has been exceptional the first two weeks of the season and has been lethal when targeting WR Elijah Moore. Jerrion Ealy has also been efficient when called upon.

After this game, we will know if the Alabama defense is as good as they have looked the first two weeks. They will have their work cut out for them but they will make adjustments early.

Alabama 45 Ole Miss 24

Kentucky (-3) vs Mississippi State

I am 10-4 on the season straight-up and 11-3 ATS. However, all four games that I have loss have involved Kentucky and Mississippi State – So take this prediction with a grain of salt.

With as bad as the Kentucky secondary has been and with the Air raid in town, there is plenty of reasons to believe the Wildcats will drop to 0-3.

However, I think their offensive line can help control the clock. The question is can they create turnovers. So far this season, they don’t have one.

To be honest, I am so confused by these two teams right now, I am going to flip a coin.

Kentucky 29 MSU 24

SEC Week 2: Previews and Predictions

South Carolina VS Florida (-16.5)

Kyle Trask was exceptional last week throwing for 416-yards and six-touchdowns. While I am becoming a believer, I am not ready to book his NY ticket just yet. While it is hard to criticize a 30-for-42 effort, but there is still room for improvement when you rewatch the game. Will he be able to be elite if any team can take Kyle Pitts out of the game? I think so but I am not ready to fully commit.

This week will be a slightly tougher challenge for the Gators offense. South Carolina’s defense isn’t elite, but they do have two future NFL cornerbacks in Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn. It sounds like Isreal might be able to play, and Horn didn’t allow a single yard passing against Tennessee.

Florida defense was as horrific as I have seen them in my ten years of covering the SEC. They gave up over 600 yards and 35 points to the Rebels.

Mike Bobo did a respectable job with South Carolina last week and he was creative in finding ways to get the ball as he caught ten passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Graduate transfer Colin Hill played a pretty good game throwing for a respectable 290 yards. He will need to take another step this week for South Carolina to have a shot.

Score Prediction: Florida 38 South Carolina 20

 

Missouri VS Tennessee (-12)

The Missouri Tigers are heading to Knoxville after a better than expected performance versus Alabama. Yes, they did most of their scoring against the second team, but they fought all night. Probably most impressive for the Tigers was outside linebacker Tre Williams and defensive lineman Kobie Whiteside. Both played solid all night.

They will need some help to stop this Jim Chaney offense. I have often said that Chaney is the best in the business at hiding his quarterbacks’ flaws. Jarrett Guarantano was far from perfect, but he did not make any killer mistakes as he threw for 259-yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. Eric Gray struggled running the football against South Carolina, but Ty Chandler covered his clack rushing for 86-yards on 13 carries.

Score Prediction: Tennessee 27 Mizzou 13

 

Texas A&M VS Alabama (-18)

While watching Mac Jones play last week, one song came to mind – I told you so by Randy Travis. Jones did just what I thought he would -dominate the game. Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith were once again spectacular, and John Metchie proved he was ready to be the new No. 3. Najee once again was a bully, and the starters looked the part.

The Aggies, on the other hand, were awful on offense. Kellen Mond was the most disappointing as he looked like he regressed on passes over 10 yards as he completed just three of 11 such attempts. Isaiah Spiller was the one bright spot for the Aggies offense, rushing for 117-yards on only eight carries.

Alabama and Texas A&M both looked good on defense, but both were facing anemic offenses. We should get a better idea of where they both are after this weekend.

Score Prediction: Alabama 35 Texas A&M 13

 

Ole Miss vs Kentucky (-7)

Kentucky was very disappointing last week as the collapsed against Auburn in the second half. Ole Miss, on the other hand, gave up over 600 yards but also put up over 600 yards.

For Kentucky, it was all about mistakes from the QB position. Terry Wilson Jr. got off to a good start but was horrific in the second half. The good news is the offensive line and running backs played pretty well overall. If Wilson can shake off the cobwebs, they should be in good shape.

For Ole Miss, quarterback Matt Corral was excellent completing 22-of-31 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns, and WR Elijah Moore caught ten passes for a career-high 227 yards.

I hope I do not regret this, but Kentucky should be able to grind the ball and control the clock.

Score Prediction: Kentucky 24 Ole Miss 21

 

Auburn vs UGA (-6.5)

In Auburn’s last five trips to the state of Georgia to play the Bulldogs, they have only averaged 7.6 PPG. Making things more interesting, this will be the best UGA defense they have faced during that time. Bo Nix and company did have moments where they looked the part last week against what should be a very good Kentucky defense.

Nix should have a ton of confidence coming into this game, not only because of how he played against Kentucky but because he will have wide receiver Seth Williams who bullied his way to six passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. With that said, the Tigers will need to get much better in the rushing game, and Williams will need more help.

We all know how good this UGA secondary should be this season led by Richard LeCounte who has had four interceptions in his last two games. If they can keep Auburn receivers in front of them, it should be a fun game for the defense.

On offense, who knows? Despite the terrible start, I will say the play-calling looked much improved. Once Monken found his groove, he just started dialing them up. Will it be Stetson Bennett or JT Daniels? I think either is good enough to win this game, but they cannot play musical chairs with them. Auburn is not Arkansas, and this could get ugly quick if they come out slow.

Score Prediction: UGA 24 Auburn 17

 

Arkansas Vs Mississippi State (-17)

Arkansas leading Georgia in the first half had more to do with the spotty offensive line and D’Wan Mathis’ play than anything else. Outside of the second drive of the game, the Razorbacks were flat. Obviously, Mississippi State defense is not as talented as UGA’s defense, but they can still play. Rakeem Boyd was a non-factor but should have more success this game.

Also problematic for Arkansas, they will not be facing an inexperienced QB this week. In fact, last week against LSU, Bulldogs QB K.J. Costello was historically good throwing for 623 yards and five touchdowns in that 44-34 win against LSU. Mississippi State’s offense as a whole recorded 15 plays that resulted in at least a 20-yard gain. The closest to them last week was 11.

Score Prediction: MSU 35 Arkansas 20

Vanderbilt VS LSU (-21)

The Coomodores were impressive last week defensively against the Texas A&M Aggies and that was without their leading tackler from last season Dimitri Moore. Yes, Kellen Mond played bad but some of that was because of Vanderbilt. This defense should get better and beter as the season goes on.

LSU is not going to just move the ball up and down the field on this defense early. However, the lack of playmakers on offense for Vanderbilt will be problematic because the dam will eventually break and this offense will get going in the second half.

Score Prediction: LSU 30 Vandy 7

Week 1: Alabama vs Mizzou Preview and Predictions

As we enter into the 2020 football season, the University of Alabama and the University of Missouri are both heading in the right direction. Nick Saban is looking to win his sixth national championship while at Alabama, and the Tigers might have one of the premier up and coming coaches in the nation in Eli Drinkwitz.

The bad news for the Tigers is that they will be breaking in a new offensive system against one of the top defenses in the nation. Making things more difficult, Mizzou will be without seven players. At the time of this article, Coach Drinkwitz is keeping their names out of the media but it appears that they will only have 67 scholarship players for the game against the Tide.

No spring…no warmup game…it could be a long game for the Tigers.

Tide Offense vs Tigers Defense

Alabama Offense

The Crimson Tide did lose a ton of offensive players last season. Four of the first 15 picks of the NFL draft including QB Tua Tagovailoa, OT Jedrick Wills Jr., WR Henry Ruggs III, and WR Jerry Jeudy. Don’t weep for the Crimson Tide though, because they might have just as many or more next season. What other program in the nation could lose two first-round wide receivers and still have the top WR duo in college football? That is what the Tide has with DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle? Since 2018, the dynamic duo ranks first and second in the nation in percentage of targets that resulted in a 15+ yard play (Waddle 33%, Smith 32.9%).

With those weapons, it only makes sense that all eyes are on Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in this game. Many are waiting for 5-star phenom Bryce Young to take the reins. My advice to them – don’t hold your breath because Jones isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. No Jones in not Tua, but no one in Alabama history has been. However, he was impressive when given a shot last season.

Passer Efficiency Rating 2019
1. Tua 206.9
2. Burrow 202.0
3. Jalen Hurts 191.1
4. Mac Jones 186.8
5. Justin Fields 181.4

In his four starts last season, Mac Jones threw for 1,172 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. In his only opportunity to start in back-to-back games, he threw for 662 yards and seven touchdowns against Auburn and Michigan on the road.

Another great advantage for Jones is the return of the “Nightmare” Najee Harris, who will be NY bound this season. Last year finally being the premier back, he racked up 1500 total yards and 20 touchdowns. Najee surprised many by returning for his senior year he did so with a huge chip on his shoulder after getting a lower than expected NFL Draft grade.

Mizzou Defense

The Mizzou defense finished No. 14 in the nation in total defense and No. 16 in scoring defense (19.4 PPG) last season and could be even better this season. They will be led by Nick Bolton, who was second in the SEC in tackles. He was also second among NCAA linebackers for making plays on the ball in pass coverage (10).

Despite senior defensive lineman Chris Turner opting out, the Mizzou defensive line will still be very good. They will be led by Kobie Whiteside whose 6.5 sacks last season ties him with the most of any returning player in the SEC.

The Tigers had the second-best pass defense in the SEC last season with 179.3 passing yards per game but will have to replace both their starting corners. Expectations are still high, however, with the return of safeties Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe.

Mizzou Offense vs Bama Defense

Mizzou Offense

Coach Drinkwitz has gained the reputation of being a coach who fits his play-calling to his personnel. In 2018, at NC State, he threw the ball over 500 times. Fast forward to 2019 at Appalachian State where they ran the ball 43 times a game. With the QB position still up for grabs between Connor Bazelak and Shawn Robinson (TCU Transfer), it is likely they will go the Appalachian State route.

The good news is that they have one of the best running back units in the SEC with Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie. The bad news is that three starters on the offensive linemen are now in the NFL. There is some young talent there, but once again, facing Alabama their first game is not ideal.

There is also the concern if Roundtree III will be a good fit in this system. He loves to run the ball between the tackles, and the bulk of Drinkwitz play calls are outside zone runs.

In the passing game, the Tigers don’t have much depth at wide receiver, but they do have some capable playmakers. The duo of Jalen Knox (16.2 YPC) and Virginia Tech junior transfer Damon Hazelton could be very special. Hazelton has 20 career touchdowns, including 11 TDs from vertical routes, which is 10th best in FBS.

It is going to be a steep learning curve for the Tigers, but they should have a pretty good offense by the end of the season.

Bama Defense

In regards to Alabama’s defense, they are older…they are healthier…and they will be much improved this season. Alabama has had up and down play in the secondary, but we saw the front seven struggle like we had not seen in the Nick Saban era. That, however, should be a blessing in disguise as they will have added depth and experience this season.

Having their quarterback of the defense, Dylan Moses back will be huge, as will having Patrick Surtain II directing traffic in the secondary. Surtain has only allowed 0.73 per coverage snap since 2018. In my opinion, the final piece could be Christian Barmore, who is banged up but expected to play. He led all FBS interior defenders (Min. 150 snaps) in pass rush percentage by winning 20.8% of his 168 pass rushes. If he can continue that pressure with more snaps, the Tide could be an elite defense once again.

Special Teams

All eyes will be on the kicking game for both teams. The difference, Mizzou is short players, and Alabama has the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year Jaylen Waddle that led the nation with a 24.4-yard average on punt returns.

Prediction

The Missouri Tigers will get better each week but drew a nightmare matchup for their first game. They will likely go run-heavy in this game but will find little success. Their defense is one of the best in the SEC, but you will not know it this game. The offense will leave them on the field too long, and they will break in the second half.

Score Prediction: Alabama 38 Mizzou 7 (SU Confidence 10, Spread 6)
Stat Prediction: Jones 300+ yards and three touchdowns.

 

SEC Breakout Player No. 1: Mac Jones

Mac Jones might be the most underrated and overlooked player in the SEC heading into the 2020 season. Many of my respected colleagues have predicted that freshman QB Bryce Young will be a breakout star, but that will not be happening this season. While Young is the most talented QB in the 2020 class and a future star, this will be Mac Jones season and could set up quite a controversy headed into the 2021 season.

In his four starts last season, Mac Jones threw for 1,172 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. In his only opportunity to start in back-to-back games, he threw for 662 yards and seven touchdowns against Aubrun and Michigan on the road.

People will focus on the two interceptions that he threw against Auburn, but he also threw for more yards and three more touchdowns than Joe Burrows who went on to win the Heisman Trophy. In fact, he only passed for nine yards less than Jake Fromm, and Kyle Trask combined for last season against the Tigers.

Here is the reality. Chances are very high that Bryce Young will have a better career than Mac Jones. However, as a redshirt junior, Jones will be more productive than Young as a true freshman. With the talent Mac has around him, he will not do anything to get himself beat out by a true freshman.

Mac will pass for over 3300 yards and 30 touchdowns. This will lead to an interesting story headed into his senior season. Will Bryce be willing to risk coming off the bench for a second season? Nick Saban is unlikely to pull the trigger, with Jones producing at a high level.

SEC Breakout Player No. 6: John Metchie

Imagine winning the A-day game MVP, while leading all receivers, with five receptions for 133 yards and rarely touching the field the following season. That was the case for John Meechie III as he had to wait his turn behind one of the most prolific receiving corps in SEC history. With Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III drafted in the top 15 of the NFL draft, Meechie’s wait is over.

Most defenses will be focused on trying to slow DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle down, which will give Meechie a chance to make immense contributions. While I expect to see a more substantial dose of Najee in the running game next season, but the Tide is still going to air it out.

Mechie will surpass the 800 yards receiving mark and eight touchdowns.