Day 3 at Media Days was like a rock concert as it always is when Nick Saban walks through the door.
Quite a spectacle. Saban likes his team and he should. Tua is back after completing 245 0f 365 passes, 69%, for 3,966 yards and 43 TDs against 6 interceptions. He was phenomenal all the way up to the SEC Championship game against Georgia where he struggled and Jalen Hurts had to bail the team out, along with a Kirby Smart unconscionable fake punt decision, as the Crimson Tide won the SEC again, 35-28 over Georgia, and moved on to the playoff. Tua was good against Oklahoma, but struggled mightily against Clemson in a 44-16 loss. His opening pass was a pick 6 by Clemson which was just as shocking as the 44 yard TD pass he threw on 3rd and 26 to DeVonta Smith a year earlier to win the National Championship for the Crimson Tide against Georgia.
It wasn’t Tua’s night. It wasn’t Saban’s night. Saban pointed to the fact that his coaches were checked out and looking for other jobs and players were looking at the NFL draft. Those are excuses. Dabo simply, said,“the better team won,” and left it at that. There was no gray area on which team was the better team last year. Saban needs to get over it and concentrate on 2019. Because he probably has the best recruiting class he’s landed at Alabama and the talent returning is off the charts.
The wide receiving corps is the best in the country top to bottom. Clemson has the elite Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins, but the Crimson Tide has Bilenikoff winner Jerry Jeudy (68-1,315 yards, 14 TDs) Henry Ruggs III (46, 741 11 TDs), Jaylen Waddle (44, 710, 7) and DeVonta Smith (42-693, 6). It’s a phenomenal collection of receivers. And there is young depth that’s off the charts good. I look for freshman John Metchie to have a major impact. He had a heckuva spring game and he’ll be a factor. Jeudy is superb as are Ruggs, Smith and Waddle is as explosive as a shotgun shell shot out of a 12 gauge catching the ball and returning punts.
The offensive line looks 10-12 deep, big, physical and talented. Running back with Najee Harris and Brian Robinson looks solid. Not spectacular yet, but possible. It’s Najee’s time to step up. Robinson has his opportunity too.
In the spring game I saw the best collection of defensive players I’ve seen in a long time in college football. Raekwon McMillan will lead the front. Linebackers Dylan Moses, Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis, who is back from injury, should be forces. There is young talent there that looks terrific as well. One guy I forgot to mention up front is freshman D.J. Dale. He’ll be a dominator on the defensive line.
Secondary looks outstanding with Trevon Diggs back at corner and primed for a tremendous year. Jared Mayden and Patrick Surtain Jr look like potential stars as well. The kicking game should be better with freshman Will Reichard from Hoover now a specialist on the team as a freshman. I know Crimson Tide fans are happy to see him. But he needs to deliver. For some reason, Alabama kickers have really struggled while Saban has been in Tuscaloosa. Have to have a good kicker. Maybe Reichard is the answer. Punter looks like Mike Bernier or Skyler Delong. Kick returners could be Robinson and Ruggs III. There is good competition there according to Saban.
The Tide opens up with Duke on Saturday, August 31st at 2:30 PM CT on ABC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the Kickoff Classic. Duke has really improved under David Cutcliffe. He’s done a fantastic job with the team and the program in general. He’s a top flight coach. But that could be a long afternoon for the Blue Devils. New Mexico State at Bryant-Denny Saturday, Sept. 7th at 3 PM CT on SEC Network. @South Carolina Saturday, Sept. 14th at 2:30 OM CT on CBS in what could be a challenging game as quarterback Jake Bentley is back for his senior year for the Gamecocks. He’s been really good at times and maybe not as good at others. But he’ll have a good year this year. Will Muschamp thinks he has his best team yet in Columbia in his 4th season and that’s quite a home field advantage, so not an easy task for Bama. Southern Miiss at home Saturday, Sept. 21st. Ole Miss at home, Saturday, Sept. 28th. Open week, then a huge game @ Texas A&M on Saturday, Oct. 12th. Tennessee comes to Tuscaloosa, Saturday, Oct.19th, then Arkansas comes to Tuscaloosa for homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 26th. The Tide is off Nov. 2nd and then LSU comes to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9th for what should be a 7 PM CT kickoff on CBS. Could be major implications at that point both in the SEC West and nationally. @Mississippi State the next week Saturday, Nov. 16th and that’s no bargain. Western Carolina comes in Saturday, Nov. 23rd for their paycheck and their kill. Then it’s the Iron Bowl, Saturday, Nov. 30th @ Auburn. If Auburn has good quarterback play, they will be a highly formidable opponent.
This team can certainly win it all. Clemson will have a lot to say about that, LSU is getting better and better and becoming elite, Georgia, of course, is elite under Kirby Smart. Ohio State and Oklahoma with Justin Fields (Ohio State) and Jalen Hurts (OU) under center respectively should be contenders as well. Michigan and Texas are pretty highly thought of, but I’m not sure I’m buying either team yet. They haven’t proven it. Michigan was a disaster at the end of last season and Texas defeated a Georgia team in the Sugar Bowl that didn’t want to be there. They both could be very good teams, but I don’t know if I buy Jim Harbaugh and Tom Herman are elite coaches on the same level as Saban, Dabo and Kirby. I don’t see that right now.
Should be a spectacular season. Tua needs to stay healthy though younger brother Taulia looks like he’ll be terrific. Not sure if Mac Jones can get it done in big games and Paul Tyson is a project. But I really like Taulia. I see him as the backup and a highly capable one. He will be an excellent quarterback at Alabama and he could very competently replace Tua if Tua sustains an injury.
So this is another elite team. SEC Championship, Playoff, National Championship is certainly right there in in the team’s sights. They need to stay in the present though and not repeat the mistakes of last year though Clemson was the best team in the country last year. We’ll see this year. The talent is there to excel at the highest level.
Will Muschamp, Joe Moorhead and Chad Morris also spoke yesterday.
Muschamp has the toughest Strength of Schedule in the country according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). They open with North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Saturday, August 31st at 2:30 PM CT on ESPN. Most people here will be watching Alabama-Duke, but this is a good interstate rivalry and Mack Brown is the new coach at North Carolina returning to a place where he had a lot of success in the late 80’s and 90’s. The Gamecocks will be tested in that game some. Alabama at home Sept. 14th, @ Missouri the next week, Sept. 21st, open week then @Georgia, Saturday, Oct. 13th. Florida at home Oct. 19th, @UT, Oct. 26th, Vanderbilt at home Nov. 2nd. App State at home Nov. 9th. @A&M on Nov. 16th. Open week then Clemson at home, Saturday, Nov. 30th. So it’s tough for Will and his group. Muschamp is funny and engaging. He’s an awesome interview. He likes that this is the toughest schedule in the country. He embraces it. He said his goals for his teams are to win the state, over Clemson, win the SEC East, win the SEC championship and then his team would be headed to the playoff. Like the confidence and optimism. I’m a Will Muschamp fan.
Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead did a good job as well. He got Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens at quarterback. Stevens will battle it out with returner Keytaon Thompson for the starting job. I’ve seen Stevens play. He’s for real. He can sling it and he’s got good wheels. He should be the guy. State lost all 4 defensive linemen, 2 of which, Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons, were first round picks in the NFL, so they’ll have to replace them. Offense should be pretty strong with Stevens under center and running back Kylin Hill, who rushed for 734 yards and 4 TDs last season while being hurt some. He’s a stud though. Moorhead really stressed throwing the ball down the field in his press conference and that gives me reason to think he’ll go with Stevens who is much more accurate and has a stronger arm than Thompson. Moorhead was offensive coordinator at Penn State and coached Stevens for 3 years there so he knows how good he can be. I look for this team to be very solid if some young guys on defense can step up.
Arkansas is still in the rebuilding stage in Chad Morris’s second year. They do have 2 transfer quarterbacks with good talent. Nick Starkel came up from Texas A&M and Ben Hicks, whom Morris coached at SMU, is coming up to Fayetteville as well. There’ll be good competition at that position. Without seeing Hicks play much, I’m not sure who will win this job. Starkel had his moments at A&M and Hicks threw for over 9,000 yards at SMU, so that might not be decided until 2 or 3 weeks into fall camp. Should be interesting.
148th Open Championship Prediction
Defending champion: Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie
Royal Portrush Golf Club Northern Ireland, 7,317 yards, par 72, first time there since 1951 only other time the Open was not in England or Scotland.
Players really like the track. 58 bunkers, not a massive amount, but they come into play off the tee. Rough is thick. Links course. No. 16 is a beast, a 235 yard par 3. Watch for some dramatics and some agony on this hole because if the player misses long right or short right, he’s going down a mountain onto the beach or in rough up to his waist.
Weather, Some rain, typical for Ireland. Wind anywhere from 9-18 depending on the day.
TV: Today-Friday, 12:30 AM-3 PM CT Golf Channel; Saturday, 3:30-6 AM CT Golf Channel. 6 AM-2 PM CT NBC. Sunday, 3:30-6 AM CT Golf Channel. 6 AM-1 PM NBC.
I’m going to take the 24 year old Spaniard. I haven’t seen a leaderboard today so I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve been bullish on this guy since he won the Irish Open 2 weeks ago. I like this young gun to break through and win his first major championship and hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday.