Nick Saban Wants It Both Ways

By John Camera

Alabama is a good football team. A damn good football team. But after their embarrassing 26-14 loss against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, it is clear that they are not the best team in the nation. That argument is certainly up for debate but is best left for another article. Simply put, Alabama doesn’t deserve to be in the playoff this year and Nick Saban’s whining shouldn’t change that.

To be fair to him, Saban is being a good coach when he said post-game that his guys deserved a shot at the playoff. There are a lot of talented players on his roster, guys who are Seniors and guys who will go to the NFL after their Junior season. This is their last chance to win a championship and Saban, like every other coach in America, wants to deliver that to them. But his words ring hollow, especially after his comments following the Crimson Tide’s 27-19 win over Texas A&M back on October 7.

“It’s like taking poison. Like rat poison.”

That was what Saban said in regards to the hype sports pundits had placed on Alabama. The head coach heaped blame on the media for inflating his team’s ego and affecting their performance against Texas A&M, a game that Saban thought shouldn’t have been as close as it turned out.

“I’m asking them (the players) are you going to listen to me or are you going to listen to these guys (the media) about how good you are?” Saban continued in his postgame press conference. The coach is telling his team to remain humble, as any coach would, but is reminding them they are not as great as the media has dubbed them.

Up until their near-loss against Mississippi State, two weeks before the Iron Bowl, the Tide seemed unstoppable in the regular season yet again. Even with a great Georgia team wrapping up the SEC East and an emerging Auburn team, Bama still seemed like the favorite to finish 13-0 and earn the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. Things obviously did not turn out this way and Alabama will both finish the year 11-1 and without being able to play for the SEC Championship. If they hope to make the playoffs, they will have to do so as a team that is not a conference champion. This would be the first time that a team would make the playoff without at least a stake in its conference championship.

If Alabama had lost to a team like LSU or Mississippi State earlier in the season, it would’ve diminished their record and ranking but would not have had the same affect as losing to Auburn. Losing to LSU or Mississippi State and then beating Auburn would’ve guaranteed Alabama a spot in the playoff as long as they beat Georgia for the SEC Championship. But losing to Auburn on the last week of the regular season and missing out on a chance to play in the Championship has doomed Bama barring a series of upsets this coming weekend.

If Alabama does indeed miss out on the playoff, it would be the first time in the tourney’s history that the Tide won’t be in it. But when Nick Saban declares that his team is not as good as the media says and then argues that his team is good enough to be in the playoff despite failing to take care of business against Auburn, he cannot be able to have it both ways. This is an Alabama team that has big wins over bad squads like Tennessee, Arkansas and Mercer. They also have played average teams very close, like Texas A&M, LSU and Mississippi State. The best team they faced all year, Auburn, decidedly bested them by 12 points and dominated almost the entire game.

Alabama is not the same juggernaut they have been in past years, Saban is right about that much. And for that reason, they do not belong in the College Football Playoff this season.


5 Breakout Players at the 2017 Senior Bowl

By John Camera

It’s one of the most exciting weeks of the year for NFL Draft enthusiasts, as the entirety of the football universe descends upon Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl. This year’s roster is chock full of talent and although it doesn’t have the QB star power of last year with Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott (not quite an MVP candidate at that time) there are a lot of draftable players at every other position. Here are just some of the guys you’ll want to keep your eyes on.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington – This small school, FCS WR is not someone to be overlooked. It’s actually kind of hard to do so, considering he stands at 6’2”, 198. But beyond great size, Kupp has consistently shown on tape to be an all-around receiver. His speed, route-running, and hands are all good enough to get Day 1 consideration especially if he has a strong Senior Bowl week and rolls through the Combine.

O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama – The true Senior didn’t have to travel too far from campus to get here but it seems like returning for 2016 really paid off for him. Although the Crimson Tide didn’t utilize him very often in 2016, it wasn’t for lack of talent as a pass catcher. Howard fits the new TE mold that guys like Vernon Davis, Jordan Reed, and Jimmy Graham have sparked. He’s got great speed, good hands, and shows good effort as a blocker. He might be the most talented pass catcher at Mobile this week.

Montravius Adams, DL, Auburn – Adams may not get as much pub as his teammate Carl Lawson but the hulking defensive lineman should move up draft boards after this week. Adams is a high-effort, thickly-built Nose Tackle with quickness to wreck plays in the backfield or chase RBs down the line of scrimmage. He could move into first round consideration with a strong performance against an offensive line group that is lacking for the most part.

Conner Harris, LB, Lindenwood – Another small school player but different from Kupp, Harris is trying to prove he’s draftable. He is extremely small at 5’11” and despite some good speed, instincts, and tackling fundamentals, the Linebacker out of Lindenwood just may not have enough size to start in the NFL. However, he will try to change that perception against higher level of competition in Mobile. He could potentially latch on as a special teams ace considering his high effort and do-anything attitude.

Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU – White was another player who chose to stay for his Senior year and his patience has paid off. The LSU Corner is rangy and fast, a bigger CB in the mold of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He’s got good ball skills that will occasionally get him in trouble; he’s a bit of a gambler. Teams will want to see if his footwork, which can be out of control, has improved since the end of the season.

Madness! Week 11 Is College Football Chaos

By John Camera

Down goes Clemson!…and Michigan…and Washington. Hell even Texas A&M, Auburn, UNC, and Virginia Tech were thrashed for good measure. If you’re keeping score at home those are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 14, and 17th teams respectively. And all of them lost within a few hours of each other. Each loss shook up an exciting college football season that features only one mega-team, Alabama, who blew through Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa, 51-3.

Clemson let ACC rival and underachiever Pittsburgh hang around until cancer survivor/all-world RB James Conner helped down them. The Tigers couldn’t find a running game and forced Deshaun Watson to put the ball in the air a staggering 70 times. 580 yards, 3 TDs, but 3 INTs later and the Tigers couldn’t put the game away with a 2 point lead late in the fourth. 52 seconds and 34 yards was all Pitt needed to get into field goal range, including a 21 yard strike to Scott Orndoff, who finished with 128 yards and 2 TDs in his Panthers’ 43-42 win. Clemson still finds themselves ahead of Louisville, who had their own problems in a victory over pesky Wake Forest, by virtue of a head to head win.

Michigan went on the road to an Iowa team that was sniffing an upset all night behind a ferocious defense. The Wolverines scored a FG on their second drive, set up by an Iowa 4th down failure, and then followed that with a 72 yard touchdown drive. But the home-stoked defense said “no more” and mostly silenced the Wolverines the rest of the night. The Hawkeyes D did allow a 60 yard drive but only gave away 3 points. Besides those three possessions, Michigan didn’t have another drive that went more than 25 yards. Iowa did just enough to give their home fans a massive upset, 14-13. Michigan’s duel with Ohio State in two weeks will mean everything for both teams’ playoff chances.

Washington battled no. 20 USC, with the Trojans jumping on the Huskies after a slow first quarter. Washington traded field goals with the Trojans touchdowns and the first half ended as a 17-6 game, advantage Southern California. But it still felt winnable for a Washington team that was at home, with a quick strike offense, and had been dominant all year. It seemed that narrative would write itself as Jake Browning found explosive Junior WR John Ross for a 70 yard TD that left USC CB Adoree Jackson needing new ankles. USC would answer with its own touchdown and Washington just couldn’t find its offensive rhythm despite flashes. The Huskies’ playoff chances lay dashed in the wake of a bad defeat, 26-13.

Washington QB Jake Browning is sacked by USC DE Porter Gustin in the Trojan’s 26-13 upset win (Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson – USA Today Sports).

Those were the big ones, the teams in prime playoff position, but as mentioned lots of other big name squads lost as well. A&M picked up their second straight loss, this week to an Ole Miss team that found themselves on the right side of a comeback this season, 29-28. Auburn’s offense stalled against a hot and cold Georgia squad that established a running attack in a 13-7 triumph. UNC was shocked in Durham by the never-say-die Dukies, 28-27, and Virginia Tech looked overrated against a suddenly-rebounding Georgia Tech outfit, 30-20.

Playoff-wise, this may not shake up too much despite three of the top four losing. Alabama remains at one of course. Michigan may move out of the top 4 but ought to stay in the top 6; Ohio State will likely take its place. The same interesting question applies to one loss Clemson and Louisville, the ‘Ville’s only loss to Clemson. I expect Clemson should hold on to a playoff spot with Louisville breathing down its neck should the Tigers, or another team, slip up and UL wins out. And who leaps into the top 6 with Washington likely dropping a few spots? My money is on an Oklahoma team that has come back to playing pretty good football after early upsets. The committee could look to a third Big 10 team in Wisconsin but I think they’re overrated; their best win was against a criminally-overrated LSU team in Week 1. Also watch out for darkhorses Nebraska and Western Michigan. The latter has a lot of spots needed to jump but they are one of only two undefeateds left, albeit not playing in a “Power 5” conference.


Nick Saban: New York Giants Head Coach

By John Camera

That was almost the headline back in January when the Giants fired longtime Head Coach Tom Coughlin and were searching for a replacement, according to actor Tom Arnold. Arnold went on Paul Finebaum’s ESPN show Friday to drop this little nugget; the Giants were ready to officially make then-offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo the head man before management received a call from Saban’s people that the Alabama coach wanted the Giants’ job. Saban only had one caveat, according to Arnold, he had to speak to his wife about it first. The Giants’ reportedly gave Saban three hours to mull it over with Mrs. Saban before they needed a clear answer; they didn’t want to string Ben McAdoo along. Arnold doesn’t give a clear resolution as to why Saban didn’t make the move, if it was his wife who wasn’t ready, if the head coach thought the better of it, or if the Giants’ decided to turn him down but one thing is for certain; no one at ‘Bama or in the Giants will confirm this story.

So this little tale from B-movie actor Tom Arnold is sure to light up the sports world for a couple days and why shouldn’t it? The sight of Nick Saban in Giants blue as opposed to Alabama crimson is fun to picture. “What-if” stories paint all corners of the sports universe because its enjoyable to imagine a reality apart from our own and think what we would like to think would’ve happened, in this case, if Nick Saban became the head coach of the New York Giants.

As mentioned earlier, this is a story that can never be confirmed and we’ll see if any insiders from Saban or the Giants go on the record as anonymous sources to say its true. If not, its up to each of us to believe whether or not the tale is tall. Could they really hope that Saban’s Act II would’ve mimicked Pete Carroll’s second foray into the NFL? Would the Giants’ really be that prepared to dump their offensive coordinator that had presided over Eli Manning’s resuscitation and Odell Beckham’s supersonic rise? Probably not but if owners John Mara and Steve Tisch really thought Saban was the leader they needed, maybe they would’ve said goodbye to McAdoo.

Its important to remember that Saban was certainly not a dominant head coach in his first stint as the top guy for the 2005-2006 Miami Dolphins. Saban’s record was 15-17. He was fired after those two years and returned to the SEC. He’s since turned Alabama into a ho-hum champion, a dynasty so ruthless and dominant their reign as No. 1 is considered typical. When Alabama doesn’t win it takes a record-breaking star like Cam Newton or Johnny Manziel to knock them out.

Saban would’ve been familiar to the Giants locker room in that he was a demanding coach that expected the best from his players like Tom Coughlin did. Its hard to say though whether his style of coaching would’ve  worked with older, professional athletes who don’t often like being treated like their college counterparts; a coach screaming in your face will get old to an NFL player. Would Saban have adjusted his coaching techniques? Its hard to say but it feeds into the unknown aspect of a “What-if.” Saban is certainly not Pete Carroll, who is more of a “players’ coach” and is significantly less stone-faced than Saban, Coughlin, or even current Giants’ coach Ben McAdoo.

For both sides, the deal that never was probably worked out in the end. Ben McAdoo has shown flashes as rookie head coach and, although there is a lot to improve, still has the Giants at 4-3 in their bye week and very much in the NFC East and playoff hunt. Saban has the Tide at No. 1 again and it doesn’t look like anyone from the SEC will be challenging them this year (of course LSU will beat them after I say this). One question remains; do they make straw hats in blue?