Thursday, December 26, 2013

Traditional powers collide in 80th annual Sugar Bowl

When it comes to the college football world, one would be hard-pressed to find two more tradition-rich programs than Oklahoma and Alabama. Marked by legendary coaches and legendary teams, the Crimson Tide and the Sooners are members of college football royalty.

Clashing in the 80th Sugar Bowl, Alabama and Oklahoma will enter the contest on very different emotional levels.

Oklahoma, having lost two games in the regular season, managed to upset in-state rival Oklahoma State on the final weekend of the regular season. The victory over the Cowboys essentially punched OU’s ticket to the prestigious, BCS aligned, Sugar Bowl. Having achieved possibly more than what was expected prior to the start of the season, the Sooners will arrive in New Orleans on a positive note.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, regardless of potential denials to the contrary, the 2014 Sugar Bowl is Alabama’s consolation prize. Having been upset on the final weekend of the regular season by the Auburn Tigers, UA’s quest for a three-peat had not only ended at the hands of an in-state rival, but ended courtesy of a missed field goal returned for a touchdown as time expired.

While Oklahoma fulfilled a goal by earning a spot in the illustrious Sugar Bowl, Alabama was forced to accept the raw hand of New Orleans after the goal of Pasadena had been derailed.

Although the faces on the field have changed, the 2008 Alabama team entered the 2009 Sugar Bowl with similar disappointed. Having been ousted by the Florida Gators in the 2008 SEC title game, the Crimson Tide entered the Sugar Bowl “hungover” after their national title hopes had been dashed one month prior. The result of being forced to accept an unwanted fate led to the Crimson Tide being “thumped” at the hands of an upstart and hungry Utah squad. Jumping out to a 21-0 lead, Alabama simply had no answer against the underdog Utes from Salt Lake City.

Given the well-documented stumble against Utah, one would be foolhardy to ignore the potential of a mental and emotional letdown by Alabama against the Sooners.
Removing all of the psychological clutter, the biggest point of “drama,” in terms of player personnel, is on the side of Oklahoma. Who the Sooners will trot out as quarterback has made for quite the guessing game, and by various media accounts, that game will continue until OU takes the field on offense for the first time. Blake Bell, Trevor Knight, and Kendal Thompson are Bob Stoops’ three options, most notably Bell and Knight.

Currently listed as 15.5-point underdog, the Sooners will obviously have a tough mountain to climb regardless of who takes the snaps against the Crimson Tide. Again, on the surface, the biggest threat to Alabama could very well be...Alabama.

If the Crimson Tide can overcome the tough pill that New Orleans is not Pasadena, and the Sugar Bowl trophy is not a crystal football, UA should be able to defeat the Sooners and cement yet another successful season.

As for the ill-fated Iron Bowl, UA’s only loss of the season, history will likely record that contest as not the day Auburn ended Alabama’s “dynasty,” but rather the day where Alabama dethroned Alabama. Ironic proof that, in the end, only the self-inflicted wounds by the nation's best team were able to take out the nation's best team.
When the Superdome goes dark on the night of Jan. 2, the nation will realize what could have been, and probably what should have been, because Alabama, in the eyes of many, will still be touted as the best overall team in the nation in respect to the 2013 season.

While it is only human nature to speculate on what would have happened had Alabama tangled with Florida State for the national title, the most celebrated senior class in arguably the history of college football will conclude a rather "sweet" career with a copious amount of high quality sugar.

Alabama 34
Oklahoma 14

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jarran Reed and D.J. Pettway sign with Alabama

While top high school prospects are not allowed to sign until February, the window for JUCO talent is officially open.

In respect to Alabama, that window has enabled the Crimson Tide to claim two of the top defensive players at the junior college level.

Defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who gave his verbal commitment to UA a few weeks ago, has officially signed with Alabama and will enroll in January. Spending the better part of his college career at East Mississippi Community College, Reed selected the Tide over the likes of Florida, Ole Miss, and Tennessee.

In respect to the most prominent JUCO signing of the day, defensive lineman D.J. Pettway is certainly the main attraction.

Pettway, who attended East Mississippi Community College with the aforementioned Jarran Reed, will make his return to the University of Alabama in January. Pettway's return to the Crimson Tide is met with hope and well as a detailed past.
In February of this year, Pettway, along with three other Tide players, were charged with second-degree robbery of two University of Alabama students. All four players were dismissed from the university.

Granted youthful offender status, Pettway enrolled at East Mississippi Community College. As noted by today's news, after playing the fall semester at EMCC, Pettway has now returned to the university where his college journey began.

Per NCAA rules, Pettway will not count against Alabama in respect to UA's scholarship limit for 2014. Having originally signed in 2011, Pettway, by rule, is still considered a member of the 2011 signing class.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sugar Bowl prep begins for Alabama

The award presentations and annual ceremonies have come and gone, and hopefully so has the sting of the Iron Bowl. With just over two weeks remaining until the 2014 Sugar Bowl, the Alabama Crimson Tide have returned to the practice field.

Entering the first practice of the bowl season, Alabama appears to be healthy, with the obvious exception of senior offensive lineman Anthony Steen.

Originally reported Monday morning courtesy of CBS Sports, Steen is expected to miss the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma due to a partially torn labrum and subsequent surgery.

Per Tide beat writer Andrew Gribble, freshman offensive lineman Grant Hill has filled Steen's role at the right guard position.

For more news and notes...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recruiting: Several top prospects still in play for UA

Alabama currently has a total of 23 verbal commitments in respect to the 2014 signing class, but who are the remaining targets for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide?

While obviously not limited to the list below, here are several prospects Alabama will attempt to reel in as national signing day approaches.

*Final recruiting update until mid January*

Name: Marlon Humphrey
Rating: 5-star prospect - No. 1 prospect in the state of Alabama (Rivals)
School/City: Hoover High School - Hoover, Alabama
Position: Defensive Back
Status: Undecided
List: Alabama, Florida State, Mississippi State

Name: Tony Brown
Rating: 5-star prospect - No. 1 prospect in the state of Texas (Rivals)
School/City: Ozen High School - Beaumont, Texas
Position: Defensive Back
Status: Undecided
List: Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Texas

Name: Jalen Tabor
Rating: 5-star prospect - No. 1 prospect in Washington, D.C. (Rivals)
School/City: Friendship Collegiate Academy - Washington, D.C.
Position: Defensive Back
Status: Undecided
List: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Maryland

Name: Joe Mixon
Rating: 5-star prospect - No. 1 All-Purpose Back in the nation (Rivals)
School/City: Freedom High School - Oakley, California
Position: Running Back/All-Purpose Back
Status: Undecided
List: California, Oklahoma, UCLA, Wisconsin
Special Note: Mixon does not currently have an offer from Alabama. The decision to offer is likely pending on Leonard Fournette's final decision.

Name: Racean “Roc” Thomas
Rating: 5-star prospect (Rivals)
School/City: Oxford High School - Oxford, Alabama
Position: Running Back
Status: Verbal to Auburn
List: Alabama, Auburn

Name: Leonard Fournette
Rating: 5-star prospect - No. 1 prospect in the state of Louisiana - No. 1 running back in the nation (Rivals)
School/City: St. Augustine High School - New Orleans, Louisiana
Position: Running Back
Status: Undecided
List: Alabama, LSU, Miami, USC (among others)

Name: Lorenzo Carter
Rating: 4-star prospect (Rivals)
School/City: Norcross High School - Norcross, Georgia
Position: Defensive End
Status: Undecided
List: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon

Name: Rashaan Evans
Rating: 4-star prospect (Rivals)
School/City: Auburn High School - Auburn, Alabama
Position: Linebacker
Status: Undecided
List: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss, UCLA

Name: Brian Wallace
Rating: 4-star prospect (Rivals)
School/City: Christian Brothers College High School - St. Louis, Missouri
Position: Offensive Tackle
Status: Undecided
List: Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska

Name: C.J. Hampton
Rating: 4-star prospect (Rivals)
School/City: Meridian High School - Meridian, Mississippi
Position: Safety
Status: Verbal to Ole Miss
List: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State, Ole Miss
Special Note: Hampton will make his official announcement this Friday.

Name: Matt Elam
Rating: 3-star prospect (Rivals)
School/City: John Hardin High School - Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Position: Defensive Tackle
Status: Undecided
List: Alabama, Kentucky, Notre Dame


Friday, December 13, 2013

Nick Saban strikes new deal with Alabama

Originally reported by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has agreed to a multi-year extension to remain at the University of Alabama.
Prior to Friday's contract news, Saban, who began his tenure at Alabama in 2007, had been heavily linked to the head coaching job at the University of Texas. While rumors concerning Saban's interest in the Texas job had been swirling for months, the speculation regarding Saban's future reached an all-time high earlier this week.

Per reports, Saban's new deal with Alabama, as noted in the tweet/link below, is expected to top the $7 million mark in terms of annual salary.
As for the situation in respect to Texas, current head coach Mack Brown, as of Friday night, still held his position with the Longhorns.

Courtesy of Friday’s announcement, Alabama fans can now "rest easy" after what has been an intense week of anxiety and conjecture.
The Twitter reaction from various Alabama beat writers and media outlets...

Cecil Hurt‏ @CecilHurt
Nick Saban has agreed to a multi-year contract extension with Alabama. Details upcoming on Tidesports.

Aaron Suttles‏ @AaronSuttles
I have confirmed that Nick Saban has agreed to an extension with the University of Alabama.

Andrew Gribble‏ @Andrew_Gribble
Confirming story broken by @KirkHerbstreit: Nick Saban agrees to deal that will keep him at Alabama. More coming at

SportsCenter‏ @SportsCenter
THIS JUST IN: Nick Saban agrees to multi-year contract extension to remain at Alabama. (via @KirkHerbstreit)

Alabama Athletics‏ @UA_Athletics
Nick Saban and The University of Alabama have concluded a long-term agreement to keep him as head coach of the Tide. More details to follow.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

AJ McCarron wins the 2013 Maxwell Award

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is the 2013 recipient of the Maxwell Award. The prestigious honor, given annually, is presented to the best college football player in the nation.

In what many would consider a "shocking" result, McCarron edged out Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as well as Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
McCarron, who is also a Heisman finalist, is the first player in the history of the Alabama program to receive the Maxwell Award.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

AJ McCarron wins 2013 Golden Arm Award

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is the 2013 recipient of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

The annual honor is presented to the best senior and/or four-year quarterback in the nation.
McCarron now joins Jay Barker (1994) as the only Crimson Tide players in program history to win this prestigious award.

With the Sugar Bowl pending, McCarron has thrown for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns in his final season.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

C.J. Mosley wins prestigious Butkus Award

Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is the recipient of the Butkus Award for the 2013 season.

The annual award, which is given to the top linebacker in the nation, was presented to Mosley at Alabama's team banquet.

Mosley joins Rolando McClain and the late Derrick Thomas as the third player in program history to win the prestigious honor.
In his senior season, Mosley led the Crimson Tide in tackles with a total of 102.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Jarran Reed gives verbal to Alabama

East Mississippi Community College (Scooba, MS) defensive tackle Jarran Reed has given his verbal commitment to the University of Alabama for 2014.

Reed, who stands 6-foot-4 and tops the scale at just over 300-pounds, is scheduled to enroll at UA in January.

While listed as a defensive tackle, recruiting expert Andrew Bone has indicated that Alabama recruited Reed to play defensive end.
Originally taking the JUCO route, Reed signed with the Florida Gators in February of this year. However, after failing to meet the necessary entrance requirements, Reed returned to JUCO and reopened his recruitment.

Listed as a three-star prospect per, Reed has led his JUCO to the NJCAA title game which will be played Dec. 8 in Biloxi, MS.

With his pledge to the Crimson Tide, Jarran Reed becomes the 24th verbal commitment in respect to Alabama's 2014 signing class.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Laurence "Hootie" Jones gives verbal to Alabama

Neville High School (Monroe, LA) safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones has given his verbal commitment to the University of Alabama for 2014.
Jones, who stands 6-foot-2 and tops the scale at 210-pounds, selected the Crimson Tide over LSU after trimming a very lengthy list of scholarship offers.

Listed as a four-star recruit per, Jones is considered the No. 4 safety prospect in the nation, as well as the No. 4 overall prospect in the state of Louisiana.

With his pledge to the Crimson Tide, Hootie Jones becomes the 23rd verbal commitment in respect to Alabama's 2014 signing class.

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Crimson Commentary: Alabama takes down Alabama

Instead of providing a postgame overview of the 2013 Iron Bowl, I've decided to share my personal opinions of the game, as well as my general feelings in respect to the "national view" of the UA program.

I've been watching college football for more years than I care to admit, and while one could easily make the case that Saturday's game was one of the wildest finishes in the history of college football, my focus, after the world began to settle, wasn't so much how the game ended...but how the game arrived at that point.
While giving all the credit in the world to the Auburn Tigers for a hard-fought "60 minute" effort, I think more objective fans came away from the contest with the feeling that Auburn didn't "beat" Alabama, as much as Alabama simply failed to finish the job.

Auburn beat Alabama on the scoreboard, but Alabama beat Alabama on the field.

With the obvious exception of AJ McCarron's 99-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper, the final stanza of the Iron Bowl was a total meltdown for Alabama...especially on offense.

Leading by a touchdown, Alabama had two opportunities to extend the lead by an additional two field goals, or two touchdowns. I think most reasonable people would concede that if Alabama had converted two field goals to take a 13 point lead, the contest would have likely been sealed.

While Auburn's 100-yard touchdown is the "sexy" topic of conversation, the truth is that Alabama's poor execution was bigger than any Auburn touchdown.

In retrospect, a plethora of things had to be set in motion for Auburn to even have a sniff at victory. Those "things" weren't majestic tasks, but rather basic fundamentals that Alabama failed to execute.

The lack of the basics, especially in the final quarter, gave Auburn a chance. Arguably a chance the Tigers had no business having at that stage of the game.

Under Nick Saban, especially since 2008, the Crimson Tide have looked and played like, "Saban coached teams." However, when the chips were down against the Auburn Tigers, 'Bama appeared to lack confidence in virtually every phase of the game. The lack of confidence, amongst other things, is what derailed many games prior to Saban's arrival.

Losing to Auburn, regardless of the "extra stakes" is tough enough, but when you factor today's loss, and how it happened, with what Alabama failed to achieve in respect to the conference and national picture...the defeat is heartbreaking. Losing a contest in a hard-fought battle where both teams left it all on the field is tough, but yet admirable and "acceptable" from a fan standpoint. However, losing to Auburn simply because the "basics" were not performed, is rather hard to swallow.
I'm far from naive, so I'm very aware that no one wanted to win more than the Alabama coaching staff and players. I love the Alabama football program and will certainly never forget what the 2013 senior class has given to/for the program. I wanted Alabama to play their best game to satisfy my fandom, but I also wanted this group of young men to have a shot at college football history. I wanted a "three-peat" for them...

In respect to the gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of Auburn, the game is over, and the day is done. Alabama will certainly bounce back and have many more wonderful seasons, and they'll also have many stinging defeats. Heartbreak and triumph...for it is life.
As of late 2013, many people have a strong disdain for the Alabama football program, and I couldn't be more thrilled. College football fans don't "hate" on a 4-7 team, because people simply don't care. As long as people can't stand Alabama, that means people are tired of watching the program have success.

I'll never worry about people having hatred for Alabama football...I'll worry when they don't care at all.

When the entire nation can cheer at your expense, you've reached the pinnacle. Even in this most recent defeat, the University of Alabama is still the gold standard by which the rest of college football is measured.

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