#1 Alabama destroys USC in season opener

We’ve seen this movie before. Alabama deserves credit for consistently scheduling power 5 competition for its opener each year, and the Crimson Ride deserves even more credit for what is becoming an annual blowout to start the season.

USC came out with some fire, and this was a close, defensive struggle for the first quarter. But then Nick Saben inserted true freshman Jalen Hurts at quarterback and Alabama never looked back on its was to a 52-6 rout of the Trojans.

Hurts give Saban a weapon at quarterback ha hasn’t had in recent years as he piled up national titles. Hurts has a strong arm but is also athletic and poses a threat running the ball as well. It’s scary to think of bow good Alabama can be with a duel-threat quarterback. Wow.

Get used to hearing more Alabama hype as the season progresses. So far they’ve earned it.

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College Football Week 11, NFL Week 10 Free Picks

LSU vs. Alabama, 8:00PM ET
This shouldn’t be the typical LSU-Alabama defensive slugfest for four quarters. The Tigers have had communication issues in their defensive backfield all season, which has led to some big plays for the opposition, and their pass rush has been inconsistent as well. On the other side, the Tide’s secondary is thin and the defense as a whole hasn’t looked as dominant as it has in recent years. But perhaps the biggest difference in this year’s matchup compared to recent meetings is that LSU finally has a quarterback capable of making plays down the field. Zach Mettenberger has given the Tigers a true vertical passing game and with that, scoring shouldn’t be an issue in this one.
FREE PICK: OVER 54.5

Houston vs. Central Florida, 7:00PM ET
Despite being 7-0 and 4-0 in conference play, Houston has received no love from oddsmakers. That’s been great for bettors, however, as the Cougars have covered the number in all but one game this season (last week versus South Florida when they won but failed to cover as a 19-point favorite). Houston is 5-0 against the spread in its last five road games and 4-0 ATS in its last four games following a bye week. The Cougars are also 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games overall, 6-2 ATS in their last eight games in November and 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a straight up win. Take the points.
FREE PICK: HOUSTON +12.5

Cowboys vs. Saints, 8:30PM ET
When teams are able to generate pressure from the interior of their defensive line and push the pocket into Drew Brees’ face, he struggles. That’s what happened last week when the Jets shocked the Saints in East Rutherford. That said, the Cowboys don’t employ Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson or Quinton Coples on their defensive line, so Brees and the Saints should have a bounce back game on Sunday night. New Orleans is 20-6 against the spread in its last 26 home games, 5-2 ATS in its last seven games versus NFC opponents and 10-4 ATS in its last 14 games in Week 10. The Saints are simply a different team at home and should win this one by a touchdown-plus.
FREE PICK: SAINTS -7

Raiders vs. Giants, 1:00PM ET
Let’s see, neither of these teams can run the ball with much success and both defenses have been downright brutal this season – smells like an over to me. The Raiders allowed Nick Foles to throw for seven touchdown passes last week and while Eli Manning is in the midst of another down season, he should pick apart Oakland’s ragtag secondary. The over is 4-1 in the Giants’ last five home games and 5-2 in the Raiders’ last seven games in November. This one should sail over.
FREE PICK: OVER 44

Offensive explosion in college football

What happened to the notion of defense in college football (or the NFL for that matter)?

The Alabama-Texas A&M game was memorable, with Johnny Manziel working his magic and Nick Saban’s crew putting on a clinic on the offensive side of the ball. Yet meanwhile neither side could play a lick of defense. This is what we’re seeing everywhere in college football, as the new spread offenses have completely changed the game.

We have a number of teams that have not been stopped on offense, with Oregon leading the way. Other offensive juggernauts include Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, LSU and Ohio State tearing up defenses.

We’ll see as the year goes on if any of these teams or the other contenders can put together a defense that can slow down these high octane offenses. That team will have an excellent shot at playing for and winning a national championship.

College Football Week 3 Picks & Predictions

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 6 Texas A&M, 3:30PM ET
The most anticipated matchup of Week 3 will take place at Kyle Field in College Station today. One thing that has made Nick Saban so successful is his ability to get his team focused on one game at a time. But you know he and the Crimson Tide have circled this date since Johnny Manziel and A&M rolled into Tuscaloosa and upset ‘Bama a year ago. The Aggies are just 1-4 all-time at home against top-ranked teams and since the start of the 2008 season, the Tide are 41-0 when it has fewer turnovers than its opponent. Look for ‘Bama to limit its mistakes, keep the ball on the ground (they’re 51-0 when rushing for at least 140 yards) and generate pressure on Manziel. If they can stay disciplined defensively and maintain good gap responsibility, they should get their revenge.
PREDICTION: ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE -9

Tennessee vs. No. 2 Oregon, 3:30PM ET
Butch Jones tried to ratchet up the tempo this week in practice in order to get his players ready for what they’ll see today in Eugene. But Oregon is too fast, too athletic and too skilled on the perimeter for an overmatched Tennessee squad. The Ducks are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games overall, 4-1 ATS in their last five home games, and 6-1 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS win. The Vols, meanwhile, are 0-4 against the number in their last four games versus the Pac-12 and 0-7-1 ATS in their last eight games following an ATS win. Look for Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas to run wild on a gassed Tennessee defense in the second half.
PREDICTION: OREGON DUCKS -28

No. 19 Washington vs. Illinois, 6:00PM ET
This game has become more interesting in the past two weeks. Washington turn heads by crushing Boise State in Week 1 and Illinois surprised the masses by routing a previously underrated Cincinnati team 45-17 last Saturday. While quarterbacks Keith Price and Nathan Scheelhaase will receive all of the attention tonight, keep an eye on Huskies junior middle linebacker and defensive leader John Timu (13 tackles vs. Boise), and the duo of Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim for the Illini. The under is 5-1 in Illinois’ last six neutral-site games and 4-0 in the Huskies’ last four games in September. While defense won’t dominate this game, the combined score should fall under the total.
PREDICTION: UNDER 63

No. 21 Notre Dame vs. Purdue, 8:00PM ET
The Fighting Irish have won five straight games against the Boilermakers but two of those contests were decided on Notre Dame’s final drive. The Irish have new players on both sides of the ball that are growing on the job, which is part of the reason why their defense allowed 411 yards per game over their first two contests. Quarterback Tommy Rees is still trying to find his rhythm as a passer too, so look for this game to be somewhat tight. The underdog is 6-2 against the spread in the last eight meetings between these two teams and the Irish are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games overall.
PREDICTION: PURDUE BOILERMAKERS +18.5

Media hero-worship shifts to Nick Saban and Alabama

Now that the media has fed on the Penn State scandal for the past year after building up Joe Paterno as a saint on the sidelines for the past 40 years, some are naturally moving on to other subjects to deify.

With Alabama coming off of two National Championships in the past three years, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Nick Saban is the next coach to get glowing coverage from many in the media. Rachel Bachman and Ben Cohen have just written a profile of Saban in the Wall Street Journal where they take great pains to explain Saban’s greatness. Here’s an example of some of the gushing “analysis.”

The stunning volume of victories and championships and NFL draft picks has Alabama redefining college-football success as we know it. How, exactly, does the Tide do it?

Really? Redefining success? This sort of dominance over several years hasn’t been seen before in college football? Didn’t Alabama lose a game last season?

The writers go on to explain Saban meticulous attention to detail in the recruiting process, and I guess there’s some insightful reporting into Saban’s methods. But is there anything really new here? Saban is at one of the top football factories in the country and he’s grabbing the best recruits. It’s no different than what other successful coaches have done, and probably less impressive than what Urban Meyer achieved several years earlier at a school that doesn’t have Alabama’s tradition.

More notable, however, is that they also don’t dig into some of the less noble tactics used by Saban and others in the SEC like oversigning which is mentioned in passing near the end of the article after they’ve nestled Saban comfortably on his pedestal.

Here’s another nugget from the article.

“He’s incredibly honest in the recruiting process,” said former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, the starter on the 2009 national-title team who now plays for the New York Jets. “He tells kids, ‘Hey, you’re going to come in and redshirt. Look, you’re going to do this. You’re going to do that.’ He tells them exactly what he thinks. I think a lot of people respect that because so much of the recruiting process is an unknown.”

Wow. Saban sounds great. I guess it’s nice to hear this from Saban’s starting quarterback, but wouldn’t we learn a little more about what really goes on in college recruiting and at Alabama in particular by talking to some of the kids who lost their scholarship after one year because they weren’t quite as “special” as Saban thought when he recruited them? Of course we would, but that wouldn’t fit the happy storyline being promoted here. This isn’t about reporting; it’s PR fluff.

If the writers or the Wall Street Journal wanted to do some reporting, they might have considered looking into the random nature of NCAA enforcement and sanctions, and how many schools are learning to dodge the NCAA by just refusing to self-report problems. That’s why a tattoos for memorabilia scandal brings down a coach at Ohio State, while an alleged suits for memorabilia scheme reported in detail by SPORTSbyBROOKS gets ignored by the national media, Alabama and the NCAA. If a story doesn’t make it to ESPN or SI, it just didn’t happen. Right? Perhaps if publications like the Wall Street Journal would do some real investigating relating to this topic, they might have a real story about Alabama, or on the other hand they could say with confidence that Alabama student-athletes were avoiding the pitfalls encountered by players at Ohio State and North Carolina.

Some might argue that this was a simple football story, and there’s no need to bring in the ugly side of college football every time we discuss a top program. I get that, and it’s a fair point. Sometimes we all just want to enjoy the games. But when we get a profile exalting the recruiting “genius” of millionaire coaches like Saban, it’s journalistic malpractice to settle for token mentions of issues like oversigning and ignore well-documented allegations of misconduct.

Rick Reilly recently wrote a column where he admitted to “engaging in hagiography” as one of the many journalists who turned Joe Paterno into a saint. Of course Reilly had no idea of how that image would ultimately be destroyed, but he regretted focusing only on the positive spin surrounding Paterno’s success. A professor had called him and warned him that Paterno wasn’t a saint as everyone assumed, so there was a real story there had Reilly decided to actually do his job. Just like there’s a real story around all of today’s best coaches as well. Some are better than others, and many of them try to run clean programs. But it’s hard to take profiles like this one about Saban at face value if the issues bubbling under the surface are ignored.

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