Seven things that make me go hmmm midweek when there is no Florida football.
1. I was a radio show guest Tuesday night when I was asked if there is anyone in the East capable of beating Alabama? My response was yes there is. The astonished host and sidekick asked who? Well, it’s obvious to me that the New England Patriots of the AFC East could handle Alabama and I think the Dallas Cowboys of the NFC East could also. But, if we’re strictly talking Southeastern Conference here, then no, not unless the SEC East can be represented by an all-star team in Atlanta and even then I would probably give the edge to Alabama.
What is really scary about Alabama is quarterback Jalen Hurts. You see what he’s doing as a true freshman and then it hits you. He’s got two more years to improve. Alabama will always have great defensive players, but Hurts is probably the most talented QB of the Saban era. All the others were tasked with managing the game and making sure the offense stayed on schedule. Hurts can do all that plus adds the dimension of making plays with his feet and arm that all the other previous Bama quarterbacks could only dream of making. Imagine what happens if he ever figures it all out. He probably has command of 50% of the offense now.
2. Injuries are part of the game, but Tennessee is like a M*A*S*H unit right now with the latest revelation that running back Alvin Kamara has a knee injury and is out indefinitely. On Monday it was revealed that DT Kahlil McKenzie is out for the year with a torn pec and LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin won’t return after undergoing a second surgery on his shoulder. All-SEC CB/PR Cameron Sutton is out for the year with an ankle fracture and LB Quart’e Sapp tore an ACL so he’s gone for the year. Missing the Alabama game were C Dylan Wiesman, LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. and LB Cortez McDowell. During the Alabama game, O-linemen Jashon Robertson, Brett Kendrick and Chance Hall weren’t at full speed. Additionally, DT Danny O’Brien was dismissed from the team and WR Preston Williams elected to transfer out.
The Vols have remaining SEC games at South Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri at home and Vandy on the road. At full strength those games would all figure to be blowouts. With the injury situation, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Vols go down in flames at least once.
3. The Big 12 had no problems inviting a host of schools to spend big bucks making presentations for admission to the conference, but when it came time to pull the trigger and expand by either two or four teams, the league voted unanimously to remain status quo. Some say the Big 12 choked but Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard says there weren’t many decent teams for expansion and if the league added two or four inferior teams, it would certainly give Oklahoma and Texas cause to bolt for greener pastures in eight years when they can become free agents without financial repercussions.
Speaking to IHeart Radio, Pollard said, “People say, ‘in eight years, Texas and Oklahoma are going to bolt.’ Well, if we added teams and forced it on them I guarantee they’d bolt. So that’s a part of this process that people aren’t thinking about. The Big 12 exists because we have Texas and Oklahoma in the room. If we take Texas and Oklahoma out of the room, we’re the Mountain West Conference, and we’re getting $3 million per year in TV revenue.”
Pollard is right. Texas and Oklahoma make all the money. You don’t think for a second the entire country is going to be riveted to TV sets to watch that titanic battle between Iowa State and Kansas, do you? There is a reason the Big 12 is hands down the weakest of the five power conferences and it really shouldn’t be that way. It wasn’t all that long ago the Big 12 featured perennial powers Nebraska (national championships 1994-95 1997), Oklahoma (national champs 2000) and Texas (national champs 2005). The league also included Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri, who have had runs of success. Do you think the Big 12 would be the weak sister of the power leagues if Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri were still in the league?
Well, they aren’t. Nebraska (to the Big Ten), Colorado (to the Pac-12) and Texas A&M and Missouri (to the SEC) are no longer in the league for two reasons: (1) The Big 12 never negotiated decent television deals so the money was better in new leagues and (2) they all cited Texas in one way, shape or form as the second driving factor and noted that whichever way the wind and Texas blow, so goes Oklahoma.
What this flirtation with expansion proves is that the Big 12’s biggest need isn’t two or four new teams, but an exorcism.
4. Just in case you haven’t noticed, 6th-ranked Texas A&M (6-0, 3-0 SEC) will pay a visit to Tuscaloosa to face #1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) in a game that probably decides the SEC West title. The Aggies are better than anyone expected. That’s obvious. What’s also obvious is Alabama is much better than anyone expected and that’s saying a lot since nearly every expert in the country predicted Bama would win it all before the season began.
Why will Alabama win this game? It has everything to do with Aggie QB Trevor Knight. Knight reminds me a lot of Tim Tebow, a good passer who does what he’s asked to do which is get the ball in the neighborhood of generally wide open receivers who are fast enough to run the ball down if he’s a little off target. That works against most teams, but won’t work against Alabama, which will (a) put more pressure on Knight than he’s ever seen and (b) cover the receivers tight enough that if Knight isn’t on the money with his throws, the Bama DBs will have it and will be moving at a rapid pace toward the end zone. Put simply, the way to beat Alabama DBs is with a precision passer who threads proverbial needles and that’s not what you get in Trevor Knight.
Alabama has scored 11 non-offensive touchdowns this season, eight on defense – 4 on interception returns and 4 on fumble returns. I believe the Crimson Tide adds two more Saturday.
5. Notre Dame is 2-5 and probably heading for a 4-8 or 5-7 season. That won’t be the end of Brian Kelly, who will get another year, but his fanny will be firmly seated in a frying pan that will heat up in a hurry in 2017. More important than who will be coaching the Fighting Irish is how long can Notre Dame continue to get playoff considerations even before a season begins when it doesn’t play a league schedule or participate in a conference championship game? Oh yes, I know all about the tough Notre Dame schedule but Notre Dame’s schedule isn’t any tougher than any team in the SEC West. The days when Notre Dame was truly relevant have come and gone. We should appreciate what Notre Dame has done for college football in the past, but that was then and this is now. It’s not about the head coach. It’s not about the national schedule and it’s certainly not about what happened all those years ago.
It’s about making Notre Dame play by the same rules as everybody else.
6. I think the LSU and Texas jobs will be open. I can’t see LSU making Coach O the permanent choice unless the Tigers run the table the rest of the way and for the same reason, I can’t see Charlie Strong getting another year at Texas even though he deserves one. As enticing as the Texas and LSU jobs are – money is no object, facilities are first rate, extraordinary talent pools to draw from – I think both schools will have problems landing their first and perhaps even second choices to take the job. Who would want to put up with those ridiculous Texas alums? They ran Mack Brown off and now they’re running Charlie Strong off, both better coaches than Texas deserves. As for LSU, I can’t imagine anyone in his right might wishing to work for Joe Alleva.
7. The Big 12’s failure to invite Houston into the league means Tom Herman will be coaching somewhere else next year. He’s at the top of the LSU and Texas wish lists, but I think Southern Cal will get him. USC has not fired HBC Clay Helton yet, but that’s only a matter of time. Herman grew up in Simi Valley, just a shout from the USC campus, and his high powered offense would be a magnet for the incredible talent in metro LA. Consider this: within a 125-mile radius of the USC campus live more people than there are in the entire state of Florida. Imagine if Herman took the USC job and brought in college roomie Dave Aranda (LSU DC) as his defensive coordinator?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
From what you have seen so far, is this the best Alabama team in the Nick Saban era? And, do any of you give the Aggies a legitimate chance to win in Tuscaloosa Saturday?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
There have been few better voices or rock and roll showmen than Freddie Mercury and Queen. I got to see them live in Baton Rouge in 1980 and it was one of the more memorable concerts I’ve ever seen. This is Queen’s “Hungarian Rhapsody: Live in Budapest” video from 1986, when Freddie was healthy and at the top of his game.