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Get Ready For A Big Distraction, Bama… Report: Saban Feeling “Special Pressure” And Would Leave For Texas

nick-saban-blesses-the-massesLast January, Nick Saban’s agent talked by phone with a pair of regents from the University of Texas.  The conversation centered on Saban’s interest in trading the Alabama Crimson Tide for the Texas Longhorns.

Through an open records request, the Associated Press has gotten its hands on an email that former Texas regent Tom Hicks sent to his brother, regent Steve Hicks, about that call.  His email stated:

 

“(Saban’s agent Jimmy) Sexton confirmed that UT is the only job Nick would possibly consider leaving Alabama for, and that his success there created special pressure for him.”

 

Start your timers.  It won’t be long before Saban’s top is blown due to reporters peppering him with questions about Texas and the “special pressure” he feels at Bama.  For a man who hates distractions this — and rumors that his wife visited Austin, Texas to look at vacation property in recent weeks — will be a major headache.

Having said that, we at MrSEC.com still don’t buy that Saban would leave Alabama for Texas.  Not at all.  Not for a second.  And we’re more than willing to throw out mega-whoopsies if we’re wrong.

First, no agent on the planet does a better job of using outside interest for leverage than Sexton.  It would only behoove Sexton — and Saban’s wallet — to use the uber-rich Longhorns for leverage with Alabama (where he makes more than $5 million per year already).  And remember, this call took place in January.  By April, Saban’s staff had been given a 15% hike in pay.  Hmmm.

“Would possibly consider?”

Yeah, that’s a real guarantee.  Even if Sexton reached out to Texas — and that appears to be the case (see the link up top) — it’s still likely that it was Sexton’s usual ploy of whipping up interest in order to re-open contract talks.

Second, the 62-year-old Saban has said many a time that he’s too old to move again.  He said as much in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired last Sunday.  In the interview he also said that he regretted his “I will not be the Alabama coach” remark before leaving the Miami Dolphins because it hurt his integrity.  Would he be willing to go down that road again?  (Yeah, OK, on that one, we’ll say perhaps.)

Finally, if Sexton or Saban believe he could alleviate the “special pressure” his victories have created at Alabama by taking on the role of savior at Texas they’re both nuts.  Want special pressure?  Head to Texas.

And would Saban want to work for guys who aren’t smart enough to keep their and his business out of emails?

Speaking of the Horns, Mack Brown has recovered nicely from a shaky start to the season.  Texas whipped its biggest rival Oklahoma and has darted out to a 5-0 record in the Big 12.  At 6-2 overall, Brown can still get his squad into a BCS bowl, though an end-of-the-season game with Baylor looms large.

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SEC Game Previews – 10/4/13

mrsec game preview (2)Ready for Week Six of the college football season?  Or are you like us and still baffled by how quickly we’ve arrived at Week Six?

Ready or not, our weekly game previews are below, complete with opinions and stats on every contest involving an SEC squad.

Good luck to your favorite team this weekend…

 

Georgia State (0-4) at #1 Alabama (4-0)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC Network

Opening Line:  UA -56

Current Line:  UA -55

One To Watch:  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  If the first-year-in-the-FBS Panthers spring an upset in this one, it’ll be a clear sign that the end is near.

This and That:

1.  For Alabama, the month of October kicks off with a pair of major goals: Stay healthy and improve.  You don’t want to go losing key starters to injury against cupcakes like GSU, but that’s usually just about the only thing these types of games are good for.  Bama also needs to find a consistency on both offense and defense that’s been lacking so far in 2013.  Of course, Georgia State is so outmanned that no one will know if UA has improved or not.  Kudos to Alabama for playing a neutral site, non-conference game with Virginia Tech earlier in the year, but scheduling Georgia State is ridiculous.

2.  Alabama is allowing 14.5 points per game.  Georgia State is allowing 36.5.  To date the Panthers have played Samford (21-31 loss), Chattanooga (14-42 loss), West Virginia (7-41 loss), and Jacksonville State (26-32 loss in overtime).  Nuff said.

3.  The biggest challenge facing the Crimson Tide this week comes from off the gridiron.  With the news that an assistant strength and conditioning coach loaned money to safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix comes a major distraction.  Clinton-Dix, a key starter, is suspended indefinitely.  The strength coach in question is on administrative leave.  With this coming on the heels of the Yahoo! Sports report that ex-Bama player DJ Fluker was given impermissible benefits during his playing career by a runner (another ex-Bama player) on behalf of an agent (who happens to be a Bama fan), Tide fans can feel free to fret a bit.

Prediction:  Alabama 50, Georgia State 3

 

#6 Georgia (3-1) at Tennessee (3-2)

TV:  3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  UGA -10.5

Current Line:  UGA -10.5

One To Watch:  Georgia RB Keith Marshall.  With Todd Gurley nursing a bum ankle, his backup figures to take center stage in Knoxville tomorrow.  Vol fans should remember him.  His career-best game came against Tennessee last season (10 rushes, 164 yards, two touchdowns).

This and That:

1.  The Volunteers have to hope that UGA — on the road after an emotional win over LSU — sleepwalks into tomorrow’s ballgame.  It’s happened before.  Mark Richt’s program got smacked around by a combined 47 points in Neyland Stadium in 2007 and 2009.  Having said that, with ex-Georgia coaches John Jancek and Willie Martinez now on UT’s staff, some Bulldog veterans will likely have a little added motivation tomorrow.  And Vol quarterback Justin Worley might’ve given UGA some bulletin board material when he said of the Dawg defense: “There are holes there, but you’ve got to find ‘em and execute when opportunities are presented.”  Here’s guessing Todd Grantham has shared only the first part of that quote with his defenders.

2.  The Bulldogs could be without starting safety Tray Matthews tomorrow.  The freshman “tweaked” a hamstring in practice this week and Georgia’s defense hasn’t exactly been a impenetrable wall with him.  Take a key cog away and there might be one or two more “holes” in the Dawgs’ spotty D.

3.  Georgia has scored 35 or more points in every game this season.  Three of those games were against top 10 teams.  In case you haven’t been keeping up, Tennessee is not a top 10 team.  The Volunteers lack of depth has been exposed and Butch Jones referenced that fact this week.  Against South Alabama last week, for example, UT had two cornerbacks play every… single… snap.  The guys in the new “Smokey” gray uniforms figure to be worn down by an offense that’s just a few hundred times better than South Alabama.

Prediction:  Georgia 51, Tennessee 24

 

#24 Ole Miss (3-1) at Auburn (3-1)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPNU

Opening Line:  UM -1

Current Line:  UM -3

One To Watch:  The coaching matchup.  One was coaching high school ball earlier this decade.  His no-huddle spread attack has brought hope to his team’s fanbase.  The other was coaching high school ball earlier this decade.  And his no-huddle spread attack has brought hope to his team’s fanbase.  Well, you get the picture.  There also happens to be a pretty good friendship between Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze to boot.

This and That:

1.  Want an interesting stat?  Here’s one: Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has thrown for 807 yards on the season while Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has thrown for 809.  Both starters have tossed four TD passes, too.  But there is a difference between the Rebels’ second-year starter and the Tigers’ juco transfer.  Wallace hasn’t been picked off in 2013; Marshall has thrown four INTs.  Auburn is minus-two in turnover margin on the season.  AU’s got the homefield advantage, but turning the ball over could negate that in a hurry.

2.  While the focus will be on the two similar offenses, the real difference in this one — if it isn’t turnovers — will likely be defense.  The Tigers and Rebels are within 20 yards of one another in terms of total offense per game.  But UM holds a sizable advantage in total defense allowing 358 yards per game to Auburn’s 439.5.  Both teams can move the football, but Ole Miss has been able to stop the other team on occasion, too.

3.  The Rebels need to get the focus back onto their gridiron work.  Last week, Bo Wallace flapped his gums in the run-up to the Alabama game (only to have it glued shut in a 25-zip loss).  Late this week, UM players were accused of hate speech while attending a play based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual.  When the Rebs stick to football, they shine a good light on their school.  When they start boasting or making news off the field — sorta/kinda like an Ole Miss hoops player we all know — they make it tougher to root for them.

Prediction:  Ole Miss 31, Auburn 30

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Report: Alabama Running Back T.J. Yeldon Suspended For First Quarter Saturday

Citing a source “close to the situation,” the Anniston Star says Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon will be suspended for the first quarter of Saturday’s game against Colorado State.    The reason?  His unsportsmanlike penalty in the Crimson Tide’s 49-42 win over Texas A&M last week.

The penalty came after a four-yard touchdown run near the end of the second quarter.  After scoring, Yeldon rubbed his fingers together in a money sign and then made a double throat-slashing gesture.

“I want to apologize to everyone for my selfish actions on Saturday,” Yeldon said in a statement released Monday.

Yeldon is the Tide’s leading rusher 224 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries this year. With or without Yeldon, Alabama is a huge favorite against Colorado State.  Here’s our game previews posted earlier this afternoon.

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Chill Out, Alabama Won’t Be Donning Black Jerseys This Year

Oh, my.  That got ugly fast.

The internet almost broke yesterday when the University of Alabama’s online store put up for sale a black-on-black Tide football jersey.  The description of the horrendous, tradition-crushing jersey said: “Designed in the same styling as the gear your favorite players will wear on the field in the 2013 Blackout Game.”

Uh-oh.

 

bama-black-jersey

 

That thing is so ghastly — and impossible to read — that it’s actually silly.

The good news is that the school said it was working to correct the text.  As of 11am ET today, the black-on-black shirt is no longer on the Rolltide.com shop at all.

Good.

We realize that traditions are changing.  We know that players and recruits now dictate to schools what they will and will not wear.  We know that schools like Oregon never wear the same uniform combination twice.  And we also know that you can’t turn on a college football game without having to spend the first couple of minutes trying to figure out who it is that’s wearing black, “anthracite” or a candy-cane helmet.

Laughably, many schools say they’re expanding their brand by adding dozens of uniform options.  Most of the marketing books I’ve read would say just the opposite.  If you’re brand is everything, you have no brand.

So hopefully Alabama — one of the few remaining schools with an actual, honest-to-God, take-one-look-at-’em-and-you-know-’em brand — won’t be joining all those other schools that have decided to turn their uniform designs over to companies who are more concerned about creating a brand for themselves than for the schools that hired them.  How else can anyone explain this abomination?

Some day, we’ll all look back at this era of college football and view it as we now do 1970s and 1980s baseball uniforms.  Here’s praying that schools like Alabama, Texas and Penn State (even if their tradition is drab), won’t give into the temptation and yield to Nike, adidas, Under Armour or teenage prospects.

Black-on-black with crimson outlining?  Blech.

Update:  Back on the site and described as a “special-edition Nike Limited jersey.”

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Bama’s Saban Wants The Targeting Rule Changed

official-with-flagWelcome to the club, Nick.

Yesterday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked about the NCAA’s new targeting rule which calls for a 15-yard penalty and the ejection of a player after a wide array of possible hits (defenseless players, crown of the helmet, above the shoulders… the rule is as clear as mud).  His team fell victim to the new rule last weekend.

On Saturday, Tide safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix was flagged for targeting and booted from Bama’s game with Texas A&M.  However, the ejection portion of that penalty is subject to review and, in this case, it was ruled that Clinton-Dix could continue to play.  Fine.  But that replay does not allow a booth official to overturn the 15-yard penalty call.  So Alabama saw that yardage marched off in A&M’s favor.

Asked specifically about the rule, Saban said:

 

“Personally, on the rule itself, if you can review a play to say a guy should be ejected or not be ejected, to me, you should be able to review if it was a penalty or not a penalty.  That’s not what the rule is.  You asked my opinion.  I’m giving you my opinion.”

 

Below you can watch the play for yourself.  You’ll see that Clinton-Dix was going for the interception and, as CBS analyst Gary Danielson put it, he and A&M receiver Derel Walker “just bumped into each other.”

 

Clinton Dix Targeting Call

 

This won’t be the last time you see the new targeting rule lead to controversy in a big game.  It is a rule with multiple interpretations.  Which makes it a bad rule.

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Ex-Coach Neuheisel Pens An Ode To A&M’s Manziel

In case you missed it, former Colorado, Washington and UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has picked up his guitar and penned a song about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, his on-field exploits and his off-field troubles.  Better yet, Neuheisel agreed to sing the song — penned to the tune of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” on Dan Patrick’s radio show yesterday:

 

Neuheisel's Tribute Song to Johnny Football 9/16/13

 

The lyrics?  Why sure.  Here ya go:

 

Out in the badlands they call College Station

Lives a young Aggie named Johnny Manziel

Football and life were to him a bull ride

He rode them both like a bat out of Hell

 

He shocked the nation by beating the best…

Flattening out the Tide

The Heisman came calling, the agent came crawling

But through it all Johnny Football did ride

 

Now our young Aggie’s no long a hero

He was a target of public disdain

Another victim of fame and fortune

“What’s wrong with Johnny?” became the refrain

 

Then came the white hats to end his scourge…

The NCAA

When they tried to bind him he said that he signed them

And six hours later they said it’s OK

 

Now it’s behind us, the dust has settled

Johnny Manziel is back for a ride

Saturday’s game was one for the ages

Not quite enough to roll over the Tide

 

I hope we all can admire his talents

I hope we don’t have to witness his fall

We might not all say what we did in our 20s

But we will all say that we watched Johnny Football

 

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Is A&M’s Manziel That Good Or Is Bama’s Defense Not As Good As 2012? Yes

johnny-manziel-decks-bama-playerWrap your minds around these numbers, sports fans:

 

*  28-of-39 passing for 464 yards

*  Five touchdown passes (against two interceptions)

*  14 rushes for 98 additional yards

*  A 562-yard one-man performance as part of a 628-yard day overall

 

Even if you hadn’t already seen the highlights and box score from Saturday’s Johnny Manziel show, you would have likely guessed, “Johnny Football!” if asked what college football player had posted such eye-popping numbers.  But would anyone have guessed those digits had come against top-ranked Alabama?

Unlikely.

So the verdict from Saturday: Manziel looks just as good — if not better — than he did a year ago.  An offseason of tweets and autographs hasn’t held back Texas A&M’s QB one iota when it comes to on-field performance.  In fact, Bama had all offseason to prepare for the Aggie superstar and it made no difference.  Spies.  Mush rush.  Good athletes.  All torched by Manziel’s remarkable touch on the ball and his fleet-footed escapability.

At the same time, the 2013 Alabama Crimson Tide haven’t looked a whole lot like the 2012 or 2011 BCS champion Tide… aside from that whole undefeated thing, of course.

If/when Kirby Smart finally decides to depart Tuscaloosa and seriously chase a head coaching job, don’t expect Bama’s performance in Saturday’s contest to be listed on his resume.  His defense — Alabama’s defense — was put to the sword to the tune of 464 yards passing and 164 yards rushing.  The Red Elephants were saved by two interceptions of Manziel, one of which was returned 73 yards for a touchdown on a fantastic run by Vinnie Sunseri.  In the end, that was enough for a 49-42 UA win.  (We took the Tide 35-28, for the record).

In Game One, Alabama’s offense struggled.  In Game Three, AJ McCarron and the Tide offense had to bail their defensive counterparts out.

Expect Nick Saban’s rebuilt defense to improve.  After all, there aren’t many one-man wrecking crews like Manziel dotting the college football landscape and we all know how well Bama has recruited in recent years.  But at this stage, Bama’s defense doesn’t look like its old self.  In last year’s 23-17 loss to Manziel and the Aggies, for example, Alabama allowed 19 fewer points and just 418 total yards of offense.  So, yes, there is reason for some concern in the UA football complex today.  You don’t yield 628 yards and laugh it off.

Even though Manziel really is that good.

On his best behavior Saturday, the biggest CBS football audience since 1990 fell in love with his skills all over again.  There is no player like him today.  Just as Tim Tebow and Cam Newton appeared to be “once in a generation” players, Manziel is the latest to wow America with “how’d he do that?” plays and moves.  Just imagine how much positive hype this kid would be getting had he not shared his every offseason move with half-a-million Twitter followers.

On Saturday, he erred in the turnover department — A&M lost that battle 2-1 after winning it 3-0 in last year’s matchup — but Manziel’s overall performance was coruscant considering the pre-game hype and the foe.  His 562 yards of total offense were the most ever racked up by an SEC player against an SEC defense.

So is Alabama’s defense not as good as it was in 2012?  Is Manziel really as good as he looked on Saturday?

Yes.  On both counts.

 

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Al.com Opens Bear Bryant Photo Vaults

bear-bryant-goalpostWednesday will mark the 100th anniversary of Paul “Bear” Bryant’s birth.  Which means it’ll be pretty much a state holiday in the state of Alabama.

To get an early start on the celebrations/memorials, the folks at Al.com have posted online 20 rarely seen photos of The Bear.  It’s fantastic for Tide fans and Tide haters alike.  Anyone with a memory of the legendary coach leaning under the goalposts before a game will enjoy taking the trip into the past.

An A+ to The Birmingham News, The Mobile Press-Register, and The Huntsville Times for giving us a new glimpse at one of college football’s greatest all-time figures.  And when we say “new glimpse,” we mean it.  Ever seen Bear Bryant in a beret?  Heck, it’s not even houndstooth.

 

paul-bear-bryant-100-years---forgotten-moments-3e45e09fd382adfe

 

 

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Alabama’s Saban “Sick And Tired” Of “BS” About McCarron’s Toe

gfx - they said itA quick tip for you: Don’t ask Nick Saban about quarterback AJ McCarron’s toe.  He’s tired of talking about “the most famous ingrown toe nail known to man.”

McCarron was spotted wearing a walking boot prior to the Tide’s season-opening win over Virginia Tech.  The uber-accurate quarterback then had a rough outing against the Hokies (10-of-23 for 110 yards a score and a pick), though part of his struggles could be blamed on a rebuilt offensive line that clearly needs to build some chemistry.

Regardless of McCarron’s performance, Saban’s grown weary of the toe talk saying he’s:

 

“…sort of sick and tired of talking about this BS because it’s nothing.  AJ’s mobility is fine.  His mobility was fine in the game and there was nothing wrong with him in the game.

We can make it something and make it an excuse, but really worrying about that kind of stuff rather than what you need to do to play well might be contributing to how you play.  To me, that’s the issue.”

 

Saban also made this declaration: “The people around (McCarron) need to play better so he has a chance to play well.”

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Alabama’s 25-Point Win Raises Concern About O-Line, Missouri Crushes Murray State

postgame-linksAlabama 35 – Virginia Tech 10. Video Highlights

1. Three touchdown night for Christion Jones – one touchdown catch, one punt and one kickoff return.

2. While special teams sparkled, just 96 rushing yards for the Alabama offense.

3. Pat Forde on the Crimson Tide offensive line: “It was a steamrolling machine last year, but after major losses to the NFL it was closer to a rickety fence Saturday night. ”

4. Concern over the offense? “…Alabama hasn’t looked this ugly with the ball in its hands since that overtime loss to LSU in 2011?”

5. Jeremy Fowler:  ”There’s little excuse for the Tide recording 97 yards of total offense at halftime.”

Missouri 58 – Murray State 14. Video Highlights

6. Coach Gary Pinkel presents game ball to running back Henry Josey.  In first game since 2011, Josey rushes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

7. First time in his head coaching career that Pinkel has handed a game ball to a player.

8.  At 318 passing yards and another 44 on the ground, quarterback James Franklin finishes seven yards short of his career high.

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