Over at Roll Bama Roll, Erik Evans is a Georgia skeptic, because schedule, y’all.
Georgia remains one of the more suspect No. 1 teams we’ve seen lately. Their secondary still hasn’t faced anyone above 80th in passing rankings. And that’s probably good: the vaunted defense didn’t get to Will Levis as expected, and each of those “big wins” is looking sketchier each week: Clemson is just a team this season, the Wildcats are still a one-dimensional program overranked from a hot mess SEC East and easy OOC schedule, while the Hogs went from the toast of the town to a .500 team in the space of three weeks.
Meanwhile, Alabama “finally put it all together against solid conference teams, with veteran coaches, in must-win affairs”… against Mississippi State.
If that’s meant as parody, he’s really good at it.
Jerome from Birmingham called in to “The Paul Finebaum Show” on Monday in a hysterical state. Mighty Alabama had fallen, and the sky would soon follow.
“We live in the moment, and right now my (dang) moment ain’t good!” Jerome shouted, a feeling shared by many Alabama fans.
I’m old enough to remember when Finebaum asked that question about ‘Bama.
Call me out for looking ahead, if you like, but here’s a stat I’d file in the back of my head if we get a certain match up in the SECCG:
Given the current state of Alabama’s o-line and that of Georgia’s defensive front seven, I’d look for the Dawgs to notch another entry on that list.
You know, were I in a more generous mood, I might be willing to give some credence to this Matt Hayes column about how Alabama’s decline on defense can be laid at the feet of Kirby Smart leaving for greener pastures, except for that whole “Saban’s appeared in three national championship games and won two of ’em since” thing.
Under Saban, Alabama’s won four nattys after a regular season loss. Think I’ll wait a little before shoveling dirt on their grave.
Shot. (See what I did there?)
An argument over the Alabama vs. Texas A&M game led to a deadly shooting at a Bessemer home.
The game was in its final minutes Saturday night when Bessemer police say two men got into a dispute at a gathering in the 1000 block of Sixth Avenue North.
Lt. Christian Clemons said the argument centered around which team was better. The homeowner asked the two men to leave because they were fighting.
Once outside, shots were fired and one of the men – 27-year-old Kealend Amad Pickens – was struck. The shooting happened before the game actually ended.
Pickens was taken to UAB Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:23 a.m. Sunday, becoming Bessemer’s 24th homicide of the year.
The suspect fled before police arrived, but Clemons said they know his identity.
“It’s another case,’’ Clemons said, “of resorting to violence to handle differences.”
Tell me you’re from Alabama without saying you’re from Alabama.
My only question is whether the ‘Bama fan is the victim or the suspect. If it’s the latter, I half expect him to surface on Finebaum at some point.
Really, I can’t decide what’s harder to wrap my brain around this morning, Zach Calzada’s game log, or the fact that Alabama gave up more points in a single SEC game than Georgia’s allowed all season.
But, as a Dawg fan, here’s something I can wrap my brain around: if Georgia can pull off an SECCG win — and, yes, I appreciate the “if” there — there’s a strong likelihood that they won’t have to play Alabama again in the CFP. How strong? Well, according to ESPN’s FPI, Georgia now has a 46.3% change of winning the national championship. Alabama is second, at 18.3.
I was going to post something about how this chaos narrative that’s sweeping through our national punditry is undercut by Alabama’s and Georgia’s utter dominance through five games, but David Hale did such a good job of it that I’m outsourcing my post to his.
But the scariest thing about Saturday for the rest of the college football world was that it hardly seemed like the ceiling for Alabama and Georgia. They played dominant football while seemingly having more in the tank.
Indeed, you’re either elite or you’re not. And right now, that’s a particularly exclusive club with membership offers to just two teams.
I know it’s just the first week of October, but the irony of college football’s grand poobahs debating a 12-team playoff during a season that looks like the national champion should be decided in the SECCG is rich indeed.
While we’re on the subject of playing Alabama, close or otherwise, here’s a take on Georgia’s chances against the Tide this season.
When they play: Not scheduled; could meet in SEC Championship on Dec. 4 or CFP
Why Georgia can win: As South Carolina coach Shane Beamer put it Saturday, Georgia has “like a hundred five-star football players on their defense.” The Bulldogs’ loaded defense is reminiscent of a vintage Alabama defense. Georgia’s offense started slowly but was missing wide receiver Kearis Jackson and tight end Darnell Washington. This offense should function at a higher level come December.
Why Georgia should be concerned: We’re not living in the same college football era as when LSU beat Alabama 9-6 in 2011. No matter how good a team’s defense is, it’s going to have to score at least a few touchdowns to beat the Crimson Tide nowadays. Alabama’s defense proved to be vulnerable against Florida’s ground game, but that was partly because of quarterback Emory Jones’ running ability and Alabama’s struggle to defend the speed option and read-option. Bulldogs quarterback JT Daniels isn’t a running threat, and Georgia’s pro-style offense is easier to prepare for than Florida’s system.
There is some truth to both points there, but I would note that as far as easier to prepare goes, even against Clemson’s defense, which has performed at a much higher level so far this season than has Alabama’s, the Dawgs offense (which was missing several key performers and had a hobbled Daniels taking snaps) still managed 4.2 yards per play and was able to close out the last five minutes of the opener for the win.
Alabama is still Alabama and Saban is still Saban, so I’m not even close to predicting a Georgia win if the two face off in the SECCG, but I see no reason to think the Dawgs can’t play well enough to surpass what Florida almost accomplished.
I read this Nick Saban quote, assessing the performance of his defense in the Florida game, and came away wondering if, in this one particular area, the pupil has surpassed the master.
“What concerned me most is that we could not sustain our intensity, especially on defense. We had a lot of mental errors. And they did a good job, they did a really good job. They had a good plan, and when you’re playing the option, everybody’s gotta be disciplined. Somebody’s got the quarterback, somebody’s got the pitch, and we weren’t doing that correctly. I think we were afraid to do a lot of other things that we had planned in the game. But we didn’t get off the field on third down either. We had several opportunities, especially in the fourth quarter, to get off the field on third where we created long-yardage situations.”
What it really means
Saban would go on to say after the game that he will consider rotating more players on defense in the future. It certainly appears the Tide’s coach believes they were tired in the second half, which led to issues on defense, particularly on the edge, where the Gators found success in the running game…
One thing you can say about Kirby Smart is that he’s close to obsessive when it comes to rotating players on defense. And another thing you can say is that, based on the scheme he came up with the last time he faced Paul Johnson, he knows how to coach against an option attack.
I guess that’s a roundabout way of saying Florida will be facing a different sort of animal come the Cocktail Party, although I suspect Dan Mullen knows that. What he schemes in reaction to that should be interesting to see, as will what Lanning and Smart come up with to counter that.
In the here and now, though, it’s a little amusing to hear Saban talk that way.
I did sit down and watch the replay last night. It was certainly an entertaining game. So, I have thoughts.
- I tried to tell some of y’all who thought Florida would significantly decline this season that the Gators were going to be a decent team. Dan Mullen has his flaws, but offensive coordinator isn’t one of them. He lost a bunch of studs from his 2020 passing attack, so he’s remade his offense more in line with what he ran at Mississippi State. Like it or not, he knows what he’s doing.
- Jones is more of a Fitzpatrick than a Prescott, to continue the comparison. He threw some bad balls and Florida really doesn’t ask him to throw deep. But he can run and managed to keep UA’s defense off balance at key moments.
- I was impressed with Bryce Young’s composure. He held up well for a kid playing in his first conference road game. But it is a little weird to see how reluctant he is to run the ball when the occasion arises.
- The Gators had a lot of help from a raucous crowd in the Swamp, which clearly impacted Alabama’s offense. (By the way, the next time somebody insists the Cocktail Party is a home game for UF, ask them to compare the crowd noise in Jacksonville with the crowd noise in Gainesville.)
- The biggest personnel changes UF made dipping into the transfer portal came on both lines, which are significantly beefier than they were last season. As a result, they are running the ball much better than they have in a while — currently, the Gators are first in the conference in rushing — and last night showed their defensive line held up much better against the run than it did last year.
- Yes, Alabama’s personnel losses from last season’s offense were significant. How could they not be? But for my money, the place where it showed the most wasn’t at the skill positions, but on the offensive line.
- I also had the sense that O’Brien didn’t put as much of an emphasis on running the ball in the first half as Sarkisian would have. By the time he started paying attention to that, his offensive line seemed a little tired.
- I was a little surprised at the sloppiness from both teams. Three situations with too many men on the field?
- For all the three-and-outs that Florida’s defense created, I noticed that Alabama was still 7-13 on third down conversions. Third-and-Grantham is still alive and well.
- When’s the last time Alabama allowed an opponent to run a 99-yard scoring drive?
- That Alabama defense isn’t as dominant as all the pundits assured us it was. Aside from Will Anderson, of course, who is just ridiculous.
- The Alabama version of Henry To’o To’o looks awfully like the Tennessee version. That’s not a compliment, by the way.
- ‘Bama only averaged 5.23 yards per play on offense. That’s their lowest figure since mid-2018. By comparison, Florida averaged 6.27 ypp.
- On top of that, the Tide only ran 62 plays, compared to Florida’s 70, which is how the Gators wound up generating better than 120 yards more on the day.
- So, given all that, how did Florida come up on the short end of the stick? Turnovers (Alabama is top five nationally in turnover margin) and special teams play. Also, having to play chase almost the entire game isn’t really the best course for a team built on the running game, rather than an explosive passing attack.
To sum it up, Alabama has indeed come back to earth a bit. Saban loves games when the team wins comfortably, but not flawlessly. This wasn’t that kind of game. He has to be legitimately concerned about how his team didn’t win in the trenches. That being said, coming back to earth doesn’t mean the dynasty is dead yet.
As for Florida, I wouldn’t say they’re better than they were last year. Instead, they have improved defensively and they have a clear identity on offense. It will be very interesting to see if they can run the ball on Georgia. It will also be interesting to find out if Anthony Richardson is more Prescott than Fitzgerald.