Wednesday, January 9, 2019

President Trump addresses the nation

In case you missed it, here is President Donald Trump addressing the nation on the need to address illegal immigration and his plan to increase physical and technological security on our southern border with Mexico.

"How much more blood needs to be shed before Congress does its job?"

May God Bless you, and may God Bless these United States.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Bama’s great year ends on a sour note


What the hell just happened? How is this even possible? What unworldly spirit has possessed Justyn Ross? Is this even real?

There is an awful lot to unpack in the worst beating of an Alabama team coached by Nick Saban. But there are only four keys to what happened in Santa Clara.

  1. Clemson used QB Tua Tagavailoa’s greatest strength against him. Tua’s ability to read defenses pre-snap is uncanny. He made history and headlines in 2018 by deciphering coverage and pressure schemes and putting the ball exactly where the defense was at its weakest. Clemson’s defensive braintrust addressed this by showing Tua one thing, and quickly doing something else, making a weakness a strength and vice versa.  This shook the youngster’s confidence and produced two critical turnovers.
  2. Clemson’s front seven played over their heads. Once Tua’s first options were taken away, even a four man rush got him out of the pocket and forced him to throw before he was ready. That is the holy grail of pass defense. A hurried throw is rarely a good one but Tua made several amazing throws under pressure anyway. He’s going to learn from this.
  3. It was Alabama’s defensive backfield, not Clemson’s, that played poorly. Clemson receivers were open all night, and it was Alabama’s front seven that could not get Trevor Lawrence to panic. He could have pitched a tent and lit a campfire in the pocket. When a QB that good has receivers that good running that wide open, bad things happen to you.
  4. Dabo Swinney &Associates outcoached Nick Saban & Co. Swinney, The Pelham, Alabama native and Alabama alumnus had the advantage of a pushover first round opponent in Notre Dame. Clemson prepared scarcely two days for that cakewalk and spent the rest of the time between the ACC Championship Game thinking up new and interesting ways to torment the Tide.

Those four little things added up to the 44-16 shellacking we saw last night. And it could have been worse—Clemson opted to eat clock deep in Alabama territory as the game expired. Please resist any urge to blame officiating (it was awful, but awful both ways), blame Tua, blame the receivers, etc. Alabama was just beaten by a better team that had a better plan. It happens. Thankfully, it happens only about once a year but it’s as inevitable as tomorrow.

Alabama will regroup after this. This machine Saban has built is not just going to go away. Much to the dismay of its future opponents, the 2019 National Championship loss is not the beginning of the end of anything. It is simply another chapter in another volume of Alabama football lore.

Watching social media out of the corner of my eye during the game last night, I was struck curious by the volume of other teams’ fans who deliriously celebrated Alabama’s defeat. Then it occurred to me that Bama may be one of the most hated programs in the modern college football era. And then it occurred to me that it was better to be the hated rather than the hater, because that usually means the former has whipped the latter so often that the hater legitimately fears the hated. And as we all know, the only righteous fear is the fear one has of something capable of your destruction.

It’s just a game, folks. And we’re just fans.

And it’s just a scant 235 days until kickoff.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Last Call: Alabama vs Clemson, Part IV – Who wins and why


Here we go again. It’s Alabama and Clemson for the fourth time overall and the third time for the National Championship. Alabama has a 2-1 lead in the College Football Playoff series, winning it in the title game after the 2015 season, losing in the title game after 2016 and winning again in the first round last year. This is the matchup everyone has expected since opening day last September. Though it’s probably not the matchup everyone wanted.

Both teams have had close calls on the way to Santa Clara. Clemson scraped by Syracuse at home and struggled against Texas A&M on the road (Bama easily beat A&M in Tuscaloosa. Alabama trailed Georgia until late in the 4th in the SEC Championship game. But both teams have blown out most mere mortals.

Alabama has the best QB tandem in the country. Either current starter Tua Tagovailoa or 2017 starter Jalen Hurts can absolutely ruin Clemson’s day. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is a talent upgrade from 2017’s Kelly Bryant (who quit the team after being benched; go figure). But he is an experience and athleticism downgrade and wash, respectively. Lawrence has never seen a defense like Alabama’s and this is his first year as a starter. Lawrence is not the running threat that Bryant or his predecessor Deshaun Watson was. Both Tagovailoa and Hurts are. The game of college football can sometimes turn based on the play at the QB position and remember that Alabama doesn’t always use Tagavailoa OR Hurts.

Alabama’s offensive line has been stellar all season and they are the major reason why the QB and running corps have been so successful. Clemson has great athleticism on the defensive front, but the Tiger secondary comes up wanting. Syracuse and South Carolina had passing clinics against Clemson but neither team had defenses quite up to the task of stopping Lawrence & Co. Bama does.

Alabama’s defense has somehow consistently gotten better as the season has gone along. Early in the season, the baby-fresh secondary had receivers running open almost every play. Guys were often out of position or bit on head fakes. By the time Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray faced the Tide, guys were better at strategy, technique and physicality. True, Patrick Surtain was targeted successfully on one drive by Oklahoma.

Clemson’s experienced offensive line will face the meanest, most athletic and deepest defensive front it has seen all year. They haven’t seen anything like it since last year’s strangulation by Bama. Alabama’s offensive front will see a bunch that looks a lot like LSU’s. And Mississippi State’s. And Auburn’s. And Georgia’s.

While college football often turns on QB play, the outcome is usually determined by which team has big uglies that are better than the other guy’s big uglies. Alabama has a slight edge in the DL-OL match, and by far the better QB team.

Alabama 38, Clemson 28

Addendum: The fourth Alabama – Clemson matchup in four years is being used by ESPN’s selected mouthpieces as another reason why we need an expanded playoff field. They used the snub of Georgia and Ohio State in the same fashion.

More football games in the postseason is not good for college football. It lessens the importance of the regular season and it is that which sets football apart from every other collegiate sport. The tradition, pageantry and rivalries that make the regular season so important to so many fans and alumni must always be a primary consideration. A completely secondary consideration is more money for conferences, conference executives and ESPN.

As for the fans, we are good with four and no more.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray: “They didn’t stop us…”


This is galling, but completely expected. It’s what almost every high-flying offense has said after a loss to Alabama since Nick Saban stepped onto the Bama sidelines in September 2007.

"We're not really satisfied. This isn't satisfying. I know it's a great season, and we've got a lot to be proud about, but coming up short wasn't the goal."

Afterward, coach Lincoln Riley said the Sooners played "their worst ball" in the beginning of the game, and Murray said Alabama "didn't stop us."

"As you saw, they stopped us the first quarter, we stopped ourselves, but hats off to them," Murray said. "They're a good team. They've got a great defense. But second half, we picked up the tempo. They got tired, and at that point, we kind of ..."

“… got pulled down, knocked down, tackled for a loss and blown up by Quinnen, Anfernee and Raekwon.”

Alabama didn’t get tired. They just did what they’d done for 12 out of the 13 games they’d already played. Saban & Associates started subbing in the backups in the 3rd quarter, knowing full well that if the Sooners got within sniffing distance of coming back the starters would return rested and ready for a 4th quarter smackdown. When Alabama needed to score, they did. When Oklahoma needed to score, they got pulled down with one hand tied behind Anfernee Jennings’ back.

Also, it wasn’t the Alabama defense that got tired. It was Oklahoma’s. I will admit that I underestimated the Tide defense’s stamina and overestimated the Sooner offense. As it turned out, Oklahoma had essentially a one-horse offense. That one horse is a very gifted QB with uncanny talents, but those other 10 guys might not even start for Georgia, the only other team with a QB as scary as Murray.

Unlike Oklahoma, Georgia almost beat Bama. Twice.

Coach Saban did the honorable thing and called off the dogs at the end of the game. It was clear that on the Tide’s last possession, Sooner defenders had neither the desire nor the ability to tackle Oklahoma-native Josh Jacobs anymore. They were sick of him, and sick of Bama’s ability to run a multidimensional offense.

It also bears noting that Oklahoma has also become a very undisciplined football program. Under Bob Stoops, the Sooners averaged only about 4 flags per game. Under his replacement Lincoln Riley, they’re averaging about 7 flags per game. We all remember the complete lack of discipline displayed by last year’s Heisman Trophy winner (and playoff loser) Baker Mayfield.

I have always admired Oklahoma’s football program. They’ve had some awesome teams, great players, great coaches and a case full of National Championship trophies. Their fans are gracious visitors and hospitable hosts since forever. Oklahoma has been a class act until now. I hope their team gets their class back. What we saw last Saturday night was ugly,  and the Almighty notices stuff like that.

Post script addendum: Remember this post? All that needs to be said is this: In the only opportunity to have the Heisman Trophy winner face the Heisman Trophy runner-up, the runner-up showed the voters the error of their choices. In the only game where each quarterback had to face the other quarterback’s team, the one voted as Most Outstanding came up wanting. Poetic justice, indeed.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Bama has its hands full with Oklahoma


Most of the media expect a Saturday night shootout when Bama takes the field against the 12-1 Oklahoma Sooners. Most Bama fans think it will be just another step on the path to glory. For once in forever, I think the media has it right.

Sooner QB Kyler Murray deserved to win the Heisman Trophy. So did the Tide’s Tua Tagovailoa but only one player can win it at a time and Tua did appear to be a mere human in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. Murray’s stats are better than Tua’s and yes, part of that fact is because Kyler played more snaps in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Tua was usually watching Jalen Hurts inflict his own brand of pain in the second half. Murray has  more attempts, more completions, more yards per completion and more TD’s. But he also has more sacks and more INT’s—more on that in a moment or three.

Bama fans need to accept that a healthy Murray is a handful, especially with the corps of speedy, athletic receivers he has. Oh, and with a tandem of talented running backs. Any of the offensive guys Coach Lincoln Riley puts on the field could start and star for Alabama. They are going to score a lot of points against the Tide and by the time the 4th quarter gets into under 10:00 to play, Bama’s D will be tired of chasing Murray and tackling Sooner playmakers.

But I don’t believe Alabama will just have to outscore Oklahoma to beat them, because while the defense may get tired it’s just as likely that this won’t be as big a deal. The Tide defense continues to get better with each game.  It practices against a high octane offense every snap, and has vanquished some not-too-shabby SEC teams en route to 13-0. Quinnen Williams is sure to be a disruptive force up front. Mack and Anfernee are terrors backing the line and Surtain has turned into a frighteningly good weapon in the secondary. There will be plays where Murray is running for his life and where Q blows up the whole Sooner OL.

And then there’s Tua, who also deserved to win the Heisman and who wouldn’t be wrong in making this game a statement to the voters who had him second. Unlike Murray, Tua won’t be facing the best defense in the SEC. He’ll be facing a DINO--defense in name only. In fact, in his game preview Tidefans’ Jess Nicholas notes that Oklahoma’s highly suspect strength of schedule is a reason to suspect whether OU’s offensive line can hold up against Q and the gang.

It’s worth noting that Oklahoma has had Bama’s number and owns the series record. Alabama is 1-3-1 in the series, with a three game losing streak and a 45-31 humiliation of a Nick Saban team after the 2013 season. Football is a funny game. Not funny hah-hah. Funny strange. Alabama can exorcise some old demons Saturday night.

I think they will, in a high scoring affair.

Alabama 52, Oklahoma 42