The Capstone

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I think the Tide struggled to find an offensive identity early in the season, largely due to mediocre play from the O-line. I also felt that the Nussmeier relied to much on the passing game, instead of the wear 'em down running approach we're used to seeing. I really believe that Alabama's best approach to winning games, based on their talent, will be to open up the passing game with a hard-nosed rushing attack.
Alabama's defensive success has always centered around their ability to stop the run. Trey DePriest is a guy that is built for clogging up the middle. Surrounded by a young group of LBs with limited experience, Alabama will need to rely heavily on DePriest's knowledge of Kirby Smart's defense. I think he has a big opportunity to improve his draft stock this season, and continue the Tide's trend of high draft selections coming from the LB position. He's not the complete LB we've seen from recent Bama defenses (Hightower,McClain, Ryans), but his ability to shed blockers at the point of attack cannot be overlooked.
It's tough to predict these type of games before any football is played. Ole Miss is an intriguing team heading into 2014, and the first month in their schedule is favorable. I'm interested to see what kind of O-line they'll have after losing Golson and Swindall. The Rebels failed to establish the running game vs Alabama last season, only managing 46 yards on 25 carries. I also thought Bo Wallace was never able to stretch the field vertically. Both of those areas will need to improve in order for the upset. Defensively, I think Ole Miss will have a pretty solid DB unit - a group that help McCarron to only 180 yards and no TDs in 2013. The Rebels' front seven returns some stars, and I'm anxious to see how well they'll defend the Tide rushing attack (allowed 254 yards on the ground against Tide last season). All in all, it's too early to tell what will happen in October. Alabama still needs to find a QB, and replace key pieces on the offensive line. I do think Alabama's defense will be solid, and Freeze has done little against the Tide D in two seasons. Anyway, I'm glad that football is right around the corner. RTR!
The numerous position battles have me excited for Fall camp. It's safe to assume we'll see a talented rotation at ILB with Ragland, Foster, and DePriest. Dillon Lee and Denzel Devall seem to have the OLB spots locked up with a veteran backup in Xxavier Dickson. Tomlinson, A'Shawn Robinson, and Jonathan Allen will most likely be the starters on D-line, but will be one of the deepest units once suspensions are served. The CB unit may be young, but if Humphrey and Brown can get brought up to speed quickly, they have a chance to compete for PT. I think the DB leadership will come from the veterans on the Safety unit, which features Landon Collins and Nick Perry. The most intriguing position battle offensively is obviously at the QB position, but we are still a few weeks out from a starter being named. I do think Blake Sims will put up a good fight despite his A-Day performance. Coker seemed nervous in his first few practices, but it's easy to see his potential. The offensive line has big shoes to fill, especially at LT. At this point it's a toss up, but I expect Cam Robinson to win that battle. I anticipate Kiffin's offense to be more run-based than last season, so don't be surprised if the TE rotation features a blocking compliment to Howard and Vogler, maybe Dakota Ball.
McMillon will be a great addition to any team he chooses. Whitehaven High School has always been a hotbed for talent, and even produced current Ole Miss RB Mark Dodson, and former Alabama RB Curtis Alexander.
Alabama continues to add big name opponents in the Saban years - Florida State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Clemson, West Virginia, Wisconsin (2015), and now Southern Cal in 2016. Alabama has an all-time record of 5-2 over the Trojans, the latest being a 24-3 Tide victory in 1985. Hopefully by 2016, USC will be a title contending team, creating quite the atmosphere in Cowboys Stadium.
I never said Ole Miss lacked talent, but I do think there are four other programs in the West that have more talent and depth. And yes, OM's weakest unit heading into Fall camp will be the offensive line. I also think Wallace will need to stretch the field more in 2014. I think that facet of his game proved to be a major weakness against Alabama; that combined with the lack of support from the running game. I predict that the Rebs will be able to start the season 4-0, with good measuring-sticks vs Vandy and ULL. I think Bama hands them a loss in Oxford (I think the Tide's defense has all the right pieces in place to be scary). Playing Texas A&M on the road is never an easy task, so I'll leave that as a toss-up. Tennessee is still a few seasons away from competing, but back-to-back games against Auburn and LSU will be tough to handle (I don't see Les Miles losing back-to-back years to Freeze). After that gauntlet, OM should gain two more wins against Arkansas and Presbyterian. And then the Egg Bowl will be a toss-up. I think anywhere from 7-9 wins is a good prediction, but like I said, stranger things have happened. I like the young talent at Ole Miss, and I've gotten to see a lot of them play back in their high school days (Tony Connor and Mark Dodson were beasts). But at the end of the day, I think when you combine the talent and coaching at Alabama, Auburn, and LSU, it makes life in the SEC Westa tough road.
I don't get the sense that fans are downing the Mississippi schools in anyway, as much as they are recognizing the talent possessed by other teams in the West. To assume or predict that Mullen or Freeze will somehow out-coach/out-perform Bama, Auburn, LSU, and A&M all in one season is too much. State and Ole Miss have talent, yes. But the quality depth doesn't compare to the big contenders. Will they be in play for some big upsets? Of course. Stranger things have happened. I also think that the whole "disrespect" rant is way overplayed. I gave my fair assessment of how I thought MSU's season would play out, and left 1-2 possible upset wins out there. SEC fans have seen this type of hype coming out of Mississippi before and it seems to always crash and burn by the end of the season (I seem to recall a preseason top-10 Rebel team in 2009 that went 9-4). Anyway, it's too early for debate.
I think putting Dak in the preseason Heisman discussion is a bit of a stretch. Prescott is a versatile QB with a lot of potential upside, but his body of work in 2013 doesn't put him atop the Heisman watch list. At times, he proved to be a solid alternative to Tyler Russell, but we also witnessed some not-so-Heisman play out of the young signal caller. There are a number of things that need to fall in place for him to be in the discussion at the end of the season - including raising his completion percentage above 60%, and impressing the voters in big SEC West games. His wins as a QB in 2013 included Alcorn State, Bowling Green, Troy, Kentucky, and Ole Miss (a game where he only completed 11 of 20 passing). I'm not here to say that Dak won't be in consideration come December, but the road will be tough and the talent in the West trumps any other conference division. Another thing to consider is the other Heisman contending QBs he'll be trying to outperform - Winston, Mariota, Petty, etc.
It's always disappointing to see guys fail to take responsibility for themselves during the offseason (even more disappointing is that he's a JUCO transfer and not just some wide-eyed kid experiencing college for the first time). Jarran Reed might have to drop down on an already loaded DL depth chart heading into Fall camp.
I think it's safe to expect a 7-8 win season from the Bulldogs in 2014. The schedule, with light out-of-conference opponents, works in their favor. Still, playing in the West has its obstacles. MSU should be able to start the season 3-0 with relative comfort, but traveling to LSU will give Mullen his first loss (MSU has always played LSU poorly in the Mullen years). Following a trip to Death Valley, Prescott will have to prove his durability in back-to-backs games against Texas A&M and Auburn. The next 3 opponents should get the Dawgs in bowl contention - Arkansas, Kentucky, and UT Martin. The final 3 games will be tough - Vandy, Alabama, and Ole Miss. I think you're right about MSU playing the role of spoiler once again, but from an overall talent perspective, I think they lack the pieces to be a contender for the West crown.
There are far too many former Aggie players and coaches that helped build the Texas A&M program to only recognize one individual. Coaches like Stallings, Slocum, and Bryant. Players like John David Crow, Von Miller, Dat Nguyen. Manziel was a great college football player, but giving him that kind of credit is a bit of a stretch.
This class could still turn out great. Especially with the likes of Humphrey, Jalen Tabor, Brian Wallace, Fournette/Mixon, and Matt Elam left to decide. I'm also hearing that former Tide DL, DJ Pettway, could be returning to Tuscaloosa.
Great news following a loss. Judging by his recent tweets, and of course the scouting predictions, I think Matt Elam may be leaning towards Alabama as well. With recruits like Hunphrey, Fournette, Mixon, and Carter still to decide, Saban could reel in his best recruiting class thus far.
Fair enough, Jon. There's no hiding the fact that in a few years, the NFL will be licking their chops at a chance to snag the likes of Nkemdiche, Treadwell, Connor, Tunsil, etc. I wasn't trying to sound too condescending.
Following the Rebels' surprisingly successful 2013 recruiting class, it was easy to understand the sudden preseason excitement in Oxford. But those same fans have to realize that one year's worth of quality recruiting doesn't necessarily hand you freebies in the SEC. As it stands right now, Ole Miss ranks behind Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Auburn, and soon to be LSU, according to 2014 recruiting rankings. Freeze has an uphill battle ahead if he wants to compete at a high level next season. Bo Wallace shows signs of being an efficient QB occasionally, but I wouldn't classify him as elite, let alone a championship caliber signal caller. One of the obvious problems with Ole Miss is their lack of inside running game, which is probably the reason for giving Nkemdiche handoffs. The spread offense has its benefits, but does little with questionable QB play and lack of power running between the tackles. In any other conference, a team can get by with those problems; but not in the SEC, where front sevens are full of NFL talent. Hugh Freeze will need to find a way to recruit talent that can immediately supplement these troublesome areas if he ever wants to compete for an SEC West crown. Also, much credit is due to Dan Mullen for rallying his team to a bowl berth, despite the injuries in the QB department. Rivalry week is the best week of college football, and let us all hope the excitement continues tomorrow. RTR!
Auburn and Alabama both entered into the 1994 Iron Bowl undefeated, although Aubie had actually ended in a tie (23-23) with UGA the previous week. The game lived up to the hype, with the final scoring finding Bama victorious, 21-14. Due to probation, that would be Auburn's final game of the season. Alabama would lose to Florida in the SEC Championship by one point, which knocked them out of title contention. The Tide would later beat #13 Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl. This game has a similar back story, which is why I decided to inform all who take the time to read through my rambles. Enjoy! (?)
I really think Auburn will have to throw down field in order to win. That, or effectively run up the middle (easier said than done against Bama's front seven). Malzahn knows he'll have to throw down field. It's how they won the Iron Bowl in 2010, after Alabama had completely shut down Auburn's explosive running game. The similarities are all too familiar. 2010 was another year where a Malzahn-run offense found success in the running department, averaging 284.8 rushing yards per game. And even with that explosive rushing attack, spear-headed by Cam Newton, and with the help of the likes of Dyer, McCalebb, and Fannin, the War Eagles (?) could only produce 108 yards on the ground off of 41 attempts. Now, Nick Marshall's speed cannot go unnoticed, and he'll definitely present other challenges that were not shown by Newton. But when it came down to crunch time, Newton was able to throw down field in order to get the W. Marshall will be forced to do the same. Whether or not he's up for the task is yet to be seen. Even if Marshall does all of the above, he doesn't play defense anymore. And the Tigers are going to need a lot of stops on D in order to keep this one competitive.
Things could get scary if Alabama lands Humphrey, Elam, and Fournette (all 5-stars). Lance Thompson might earn himself a statue pretty soon.
It all depends on how the selection committee goes about determining the four teams. Hopefully, as recent years have proven, the selections will be obvious. But there are still too many "what if's" with the new system? For instance, a hypothetical #1 team blasts the #4 team in the semi final (similar to the Bama/ND title game). At the same time, the #5 dominates their opponent in their respective bowl game. Folks will then urge the committee to expand the playoff from 4 to 6 to 8, and so on. The committee's is responsibility is to set out a format that decisively determines the best team in college football via a 4-team tournament composed of the 4 most-deserving contenders. Any school not in those 4 top spots have no place competing for a title. Only time will tell which system worked better.