Category Archives: College Football

Alabama Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide

Offense

Returning Starters: 3

Key Departures: QB Blake Sims, RB T.J. Yeldon (Jaguars), FB Jalston Fowler (Titans), WR Amari Cooper (Raiders), WR Deandrew White (49ers*), WR Christion Jones (Dolphins*), TE Brian Vogler (Bears*) OT Austin Sheppard (Vikings), OG Arie Kouandjio (Redskins)

*Undrafted Free Agent

Lane Kiffin has a major challenge returning this offense to last year’s form with only starters OT Cam Robinson, OC Ryan Kelly and TE OJ Howard returning. It will all start at the quarterback position where a starter still has not been named between Senior Jake Coker, Redshirt Freshman David Cornwell, and True Freshman Blake Barnett. Whoever takes the reigns as the Crimson Tides next quarterback will be a key factor in how the offense performs. With a new quarterback under center, the running game will be heavy relied on particularly on Heisman candidate Derrick Henry. After rushing for 990 yards last year as a complimentary back to T.J. Yeldon, look for Henry to get a larger share of the carries. Alabama should also work to get Henry more involved in the passing game as he has only 6 catches over the past two years for a ridiculous 194 yards and a 32.3 average. Kenyan Drake should have an impact also as he returns from injury last year. Drake is very versatile and Kiffin likes lining him up in different positions as seen by his touchdown catch against Florida last year. After those two running backs, the Crimson Tide is highly inexperienced. The Tide do however have the top high school running back in Damien Harris coming to Tuscaloosa where he could make an impact early.

As for the wide receiver position, the competition remains wide open after the loss of Cooper, White and Jones. After spring practice Robert Foster looks like the clear leader of the group. He led all receivers in the Crimson Tide’s spring game with 6 catches for 125 yards. After Foster the competition is wide open with ArDarius Stewart, Chris Black, Raheem Falkins and Derek Kief all vying for starting spots. Alabama also has a graduate transfer coming from Oregon State in Richard Mullaney. Mullaney finished his career with 1160 yards and 5 TDs, his best year was his junior year where he finished with 52 catches and 788 yards. The wide receiving position battle being wide open it may offer a chance for an incoming freshman to make an impact. Calvin Ridley could be that guy as he is coming in as a top 25 national recruit. He won MVP at the Nike Opening Camp where the top football players from around the nation come to compete. Ridley’s high school campaign was actually shortened because of an age restriction. Calvin Ridley will actually be an older freshman as he will turn 21 before the season ends. Look for Ridley to compete for playing time and be an impact freshman.

With the receivers being relatively inexperienced O.J. Howard will be called upon to step up from his 17 catches last year. Ty Flournoy-Smith adds additional depth at the tight end position. For the first time in quite a while the offensive line is a bit of a question mark. Alabama does have pre-season all SEC offensive lineman Cam Robinson and Ryan Kelly returning, but they will have to replace three starting spots. Redshirt Freshman Ross Pierschbacher and Bradley Bozeman look to step in at the offensive guards spots. Pierschbacher was a highly rated recruit out of high school and Bozeman stepped in and started two games last year when Ryan Kelly was hurt. Dominick Jackson will hold down the other spot at right tackle and it is hard to miss him. At 6’6 and 315 pounds, Jackson was the top rated Junior College offensive tackle in the country in 2014 as well as Rivals second rated JUCO player overall. Last year he had limited playing time, but now will be called upon to start at right tackle. The way this offensive line develops will be monumental for how the Alabama offense performs.

Defense

Returning Starters: 7

Key Departures: OLB Xzavier Dickson (Patriots), ILB Trey Depriest, S Landon Collins (Giants), S Nick Perry (Ravens*)

*Undrafted Free Agent

Alabama’s Defense comes into the season loaded along the defensive front with arguably the best front 7 in the country. It starts on the defensive line where the Tide are led by A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson has been an impact player since he was a freshman and now as he enters his junior season he looks ready to take his game to new heights. Look for him to be not only one of the best defensive lineman in the SEC, but the country as well. Along with Robinson, Jarran Reed is an excellent defensive lineman in his own right. After having the chance to go pro after a breakout junior season, Reed decided to return to Alabama where he led defensive lineman with 55 tackles last year. Completing the three man starting defensive line is Jonathan Allen who added a breakout season of his own last year. Finishing with 6 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss, Allen gives the Tide a much needed pass rusher. The Alabama defensive line is deeply talented as well, with DJ Pettway, Darren Lake and Dalvin Tomlinson all have playing experience. Look for the talented Da’Shawn Hand to have an increased roll after he saw some action during his freshman year stint.

At the Linebacker position it starts and ends with Reggie Ragland. After turning down the NFL where he had the potential to be an early round draft pick, Ragland is back to leading the Tide. Ragland will be a Butkus award contender this year as the Nation’s top linebacker after his 95 tackle season last year. On the outside linebacker spots Alabama is deep and talented with potential breakout players in Denzel Devall, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams and Dillon Lee. For Alabama to be successful on defense this year one of these guys will have to step up as an impact pass rusher, the kind Alabama has lacked the past few years. On the last linebacker spot on the inside look for Reuben Foster to make an impact. He has all the ability to be Alabama’s next great linebacker, but will have to play with intelligence and instinctiveness. Shaun Din Hamilton should also get in the rotation after a successful freshman campaign.

Finally, the biggest question of the Alabama Defense and their biggest weakness last year… the secondary. Nick Saban has done a great job recruiting top defensive back talent into Tuscaloosa, but now it is time for that talent to step up. Cyrus Jones has one of the cornerback positions locked up, but it will be a question who can step in for the other one. Tony Brown has all the talent and speed in the world, but will need to play more consistent than he did as a freshman. Bradley Sylve was benched a lot of last year after a rough opening start against West Virginia and Kevin White. Look for Sylve to get a lot more playing time this year in his senior campaign and have a bounce back year. Marlon Humphrey redshirted his freshman year after coming in as a highly touted recruit. Humphrey could enter the cornerback rotation for a unit that struggled all last year. There are also two freshman that could come in and possibly earn playing time with Kendall Sheffield and Minkah Fitzpatrick. At the Safety position Alabama must replace both starters Nick Perry and 2nd round pick Landon Collins. In spring ball Eddie Jackson made the switch to safety after starting most of last year at corner. Against Ohio State Jackson was burned a few times, the move to safety I believe will be better for his physical traits and skills. Along with Eddie Jackson, Geno Smith is projected to start. Smith has had an up and down Alabama career. He has seen action since his freshman year, but will finally get a chance to start. That is if he stays out of Nick Saban’s doghouse after being arrested for his second DUI this off season. After those two, the next best bet at the safety position looks like Laurence “Hootie” Jones. Hootie has a strong safety build at 6’2 and 219 pounds. He had limited action last year after being a highly ranked recruit. The final position in Alabama’s defense called the Star position (nickel corner) will be filled by Maurice Smith and Jabriel Washington. For this defense to live up to their potential a few guys in the secondary will have to step up and play much better than last year.

Bottom Line

The Tide have the challenge of having the toughest schedule in all of College Football. Not only do they have to face a complete talented division of the SEC West, but they also face arguably the top two teams in the SEC East as well with Georgia and Tennessee. For a talented team like Alabama, they obviously have National Championship aspirations. Alabama will be carried by their front seven on defense this year. This will be particularly important against the teams who rely on the running game like Wisconsin, Georgia, Arkansas, and LSU. Alabama has a ton of unproven talent on offense and this year will need to rely heavily on Derrick Henry and the running game. Henry will also need to step up and show he is an every down back. The most important aspect of this team will be whether the secondary steps up.  If the secondary does not play up to their potential this Alabama could suffer 3-4 loses. However, I think there is enough talent in the secondary for this defense to be very good and Alabama to make the playoffs

PREDICTION: 10-2 (1st SEC)

Pro Prospects

RB Derrick Henry*, DT A’Shawn Robinson*, ILB Reggie Ragland, DT Jarran Reed, C Ryan Kelly, DE Jonathan Allen*, TE OJ Howard*, CB Cyrus Jones, OLB Denzel Devall, RB Kenyan Drake, OT Dominick Jackson, DE DJ Pettway

*Junior

College Football Playoff Race

We are down to the last week in the College Football Playoff. The debate is heating up and there are six teams that will have their playoff chances decided this weekend. Here is a look at what I believe each of these 6 teams need to do in order to lock up a playoff spot:

TOP 4

1. Alabama (11-1)Alabama Crimson Tide

Their Resume: Alabama has been very impressive since their one loss at Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide has three wins against top 25 teams after a rivalry win against Auburn. A win this weekend will give them everything you look for. Quality wins, only one quality loss and a conference championship in the toughest conference in the nation. They also pass the eye test with a great stretch of games against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn.

What they need to do to make the playoffs: A win against Missouri on Saturday will not only clinch a playoff spot, but more than likely the number one seed in the playoffs. A loss in the SEC Championship would diminish their chances, but not totally put them out. They would need some help most likely two out of these top six teams to lose.

.What they have left: SEC Championship Vs. Missouri

Oregon Ducks

2. Oregon (11-1)

Their Resume: They have three top 25 wins and a very good non conference victory against Michigan State. Oregon hasn’t even had a close game since their loss against Arizona beating teams by an average of 24 points. The Oregon Ducks will have a shot at the conference championship against Arizona which will just add to their impressive resume.

What they need to do to make the playoffs: Friday is a must win for Oregon against Arizona that will be for the conference championship. If they lose I do not see them getting a shot at the playoffs. With a win I believe they will be right there in the second seed for the playoffs.

What they have left: Pac-12 Championship Vs. Arizona

Florida State

3. Florida St. (12-0)

Their Resume: They’re still undefeated. Florida State continues to find ways to win close games against average teams. They do not have a signature victory as they’ve only beaten the number 19th and 21st ranked team. Notre Dame looked like a signature win, but they have been exposed as an average 7-5 team. They really haven’t passed the eye test, but you have to give them credit for going undefeated. They will have another chance to add to their resume against their toughest opponent yet with Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship.

What they need to do to make the playoffs: They need a win and they’re in. Going undefeated and winning the ACC Championship will be plenty for getting a bid to the College Playoff. With a loss I believe Florida State is done and do not have a chance at the playoffs. In case of a loss, Florida State would not have a signature win on their schedule.

What they have left: ACC Championship Vs. Georgia Tech

tcu logo4. TCU (10-1)

Their Resume: TCU had a big statement blowout against Texas on Thanksgiving day. They have looked good all season and pass the eye test. TCU also has two top 25 wins on their resume with a very impressive blowout of Kansas State. Their one downfall is losing a close game at Waco against Baylor. Baylor is also fighting for a playoff position, but I believe TCU right now has looked better and has a better resume with their non conference victory against Minnesota. A win this weekend will also give them a share of the Big 12 championship.

What they need to do to make the playoffs: The four spot in the playoffs is where things get interesting. TCU has one more chance to be impressive to look good for the playoff committee against Iowa State. I believe they will need to beat them soundly to stay in the top four with Ohio State and Baylor on their heels. If Baylor looks good this weekend it could lead the committee to look at Baylor and TCU as a tie, which I believe Baylor would get the nod due to head to head.

What they have left: Vs. Iowa State

First 2 Out

Baylor Logo5. Baylor (10-1)

Their Resume: Baylor has impressive victories against Oklahoma and TCU, with a chance for a third against Kansas State this weekend. They have one bad loss against West Virginia by fourteen points that I believe holds them back. They also only won by two points against Texas Tech this past weekend. Their non conference also includes SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. I believe right now TCU has the advantage over Baylor in the eye test and a better resume. That could change this weekend as a win will most likely give them a share of the Big 12 championship with TCU.

What they need to do to make the playoffs: Baylor needs a win and to look good doing it against Kansas State. TCU has looked better than them and they do not have the resume that TCU does. A convincing victory over Kansas State could change that. I believe if it is neck and neck between TCU and Baylor then the victory over TCU gets them into the playoff. 

What they have left: Vs. Kansas State

ohio state6. Ohio State (11-1)

Their Resume: Ohio State will have a chance to add to their resume with the Big Ten championship this weekend against Wisconsin. However, they do lack quality wins as the only top 25 victory they have is against Michigan State. They also have a bad loss against Virginia Tech. They have looked good since that loss, but do not have the quality wins to jump Baylor or TCU. Another wrinkle to their resume is that JT Barrett looks to be done for the year and they will have to rely on Cardale Jones. The playoff committee does consider injuries, so I do not believe they will put an Ohio State team without their starting quarterback over Baylor or TCU.

What they need to do to make the playoffs: They need to win against Wisconsin and do it convincingly. Cardale Jones must look good in order to pass the eye test in front of the committee. I do not believe they have the resume to pass TCU or Baylor. More than likely I believe they are going to have to rely on a few losses in front of them to make the playoffs. I think they are a distant third behind TCU and Baylor for that fourth spot after the JT Barrett injury.

What they have left: Big Ten Championship Vs. Wisconsin

College Football Playoff Race

The College Football Playoff Debate is heating up. With only three weeks to go in the season, the playoffs should include four of these seven contenders. Here are my current rankings of the top 7 contenders:

TOP 4

1. Alabama (9-1)Alabama Crimson Tide

What they have going for them: Alabama has looked like the best team recently with a 59-0 win against A&M, a win at LSU and against Mississippi State. Their one loss was a close game in Oxford against the 8th ranked Ole Miss Rebels. Based on the eye test, leading the SEC and a big win against Mississippi State makes Alabama the top team.

What they have against them: Alabama currently only has one top 25 victory. This past weekend wasn’t a great weekend for Alabama past opponents. LSU lost to Arkansas and Texas A&M lost to Missouri. However, if they win out they will have wins against Auburn and the SEC East which should give them the Resume they need to be the number one team

What they have left: Vs. Western Carolina, Vs. Auburn, SEC Championship

Oregon Ducks

2. Oregon (9-1)

What they have going for them: They have three top 25 wins and probably one of the most impressive resumes around. Currently Oregon has taken down the teams ranked 10th, 11th and 20th. Their only loss was a close one against 15th ranked Arizona. Oregon has also been playing extremely well since the October 2nd loss with an average victory of 21.6 points.

What they have against them: Oregon really doesn’t have a signature win. They have a lot of good wins, but the lack of a signature win separates Alabama from Oregon. The SEC in my opinion has been a better conference this year then the Pac 12 also.

What they have left: Vs. Colorado, At Oregon State, Pac-12 Championship

Florida State

3. Florida St. (10-0)

What they have going for them: They’re undefeated. Florida State has found a way to win every game they have been in. They have played some decent teams with wins against Notre Dame, Clemson, Louisville and Miami. It looks like they will run away with the ACC Championship.

What they have against them: They do not have a win over a top 25 team. The non-conference win against Oklahoma State looks even worse now that they are 5-5. With this soft schedule, they haven’t looked impressive in their victories. If it was only about going undefeated Marshall would be a top 4 team. Florida State is in the top four because they are undefeated, but one loss I believe would eliminate them from playoff contention.

What they have left: Vs. Boston College, Vs. Florida, ACC Championship

tcu logo4. TCU (9-1)

What they have going for them: TCU has an impressive resume this season. So far they have two wins against top 25 teams Kansas State and Oklahoma. Their one loss was a close one against Baylor in Waco. If they win out it looks like they will be Co-Champions of the Big 12.

What they have against them: They stay in the top four, despite their struggle to beat a bad Kansas team. Even though they still won, it does keep the distance between them and Mississippi State much smaller. If they do end up Co-Champions with Baylor the committee will most likely look at Baylor as the champions.

What they have left: At Texas, Vs. Iowa State

Next 3

Mississippi state5. Mississippi State (9-1)

What they have going for them: They are a one loss SEC West team whose only loss was to a very good Alabama team. They have a quality win over Auburn and could get another quality win in the Egg Bowl over Ole Miss. Mississippi State passes the eye test too with Dak Prescott and a very good defense.

What they have against them: Just like Alabama they currently have only one win against a top 25 opponent. However, they are not in position to play in the SEC championship. With one of the criteria the committee looks at being conference champions, it could leave Mississippi State out of the top four teams. Right now they are on the fringe with their resume, but there is a possibility they get pushed out by a conference champion.

What they have left: Vs. Vanderbilt, At Ole Miss

Baylor Logo6. Baylor (8-1)

What they have going for them: Baylor has two impressive victories against Oklahoma and TCU. The win against TCU means if they win out they will be looked at by the committee as the Big 12 champions. Other than their one loss Baylor has looked pretty impressive winning at an average of 34.5 points per game. Baylor still has Kansas State left which would give them another impressive victory.

What they have against them: They have one bad loss to West Virginia where they were beaten by 14 points. Baylor also has had a very soft non-conference schedule playing SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. The main thing that will hold them back is a combination of the weak schedule and loss to West Virginia.

What they have left: Vs. Oklahoma State, At Texas Tech, Vs. Kansas State

ohio state7. Ohio State (9-1)

What they have going for them: Ohio State has played much better since the loss to Virginia Tech. JT Barrett has improved throughout the season which has led to their 8 game winning streak. They also have a solid win at East Lansing over Michigan State. Right now it looks like they are in line to be in the Big Ten championship against Wisconsin.

What they have against them: An early loss against a bad Virginia Tech (5-5) team at home is their killer. They also only have the one signature win against Michigan State on their resume and  The Big 10 is not as strong as the other major conferences so their soft schedule plays against them. They will need to have an impressive finish to the season to be in that final four.

What they have left: Vs. Indiana, Vs. Michigan, Big Ten Championship