The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

14 hours ago

NASA’s Space Launch System positioned for key testing phase

(NASA/Twitter, YHN)

The rocket which will return Americans to the Moon is now in place for a key testing phase. Known as “Green Run,” this series of tests will examine many of the rocket’s systems together for the first time in preparation for launch.

Now secured to a test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the full Green Run for Space Launch System (SLS) will last about two months.

“This critical test series will demonstrate the rocket’s core stage propulsion system is ready for launch on missions to deep space,” Stennis director Rick Gilbrech said. “The countdown to this nation’s next great era of space exploration is moving ahead.”

360

Developed by Boeing in Huntsville, and powered by four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines, SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built. It stands 212 feet high and 27.6 feet in diameter.

“Delivering the Space Launch System rocket core stage to Stennis for testing is an epic historical milestone,” said SLS stages manager Julie Bassler. “My team looks forward to bringing this flight hardware to life and conducting this vital test that will demonstrate the ability to provide 2 million pounds of thrust to send the Artemis I mission to space.”

The Green Run culminates with an eight-minute, full-duration hot fire of the stage’s four RS-25 engines to replicate the 2 million pounds of thrust required at launch.

Once the Green Run is complete, the next time the RS-25 engines fire up will be at launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Before the rocket arrived in Mississippi, Boeing SLS vice president and program manager John Shannon noted that the engine tests at Stennis will reveal even more information about the vehicle’s systems.

“The next big unknown for the program is when we put together the cryogenic liquids and oxygen tank and hydrogen tank and we look at the plumbing and all the systems and make sure they remain tight and perform as expected,” Shannon outlined. “We have high confidence that they will.”

Once the next round of tests concludes, the rockets are refurbished before the 10-12 day trip to Florida.

Shannon estimated that refurbishment will primarily involve inspections. He stated that in “a high vibration, high acoustic environment,” the question for team members becomes “did we break anything?” He cited thermal protection fixes as something that will need to be done because the fuel tank contracts when cold cryogenics are loaded in it, then expands again as it warms back up.

“By the time we take this vehicle to Kennedy Space Center it will be an extremely well-understood vehicle and we’ll have really high confidence in flying it,” Shannon concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

7 days ago

State Sen. Steve Livingston sees opportunity to strengthen Alabama’s aerospace and defense industry

(Steve Livingston/Facebook, NASA/Contributed, YHN)

State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) is looking to give Alabama’s aerospace and defense industry a boost.

Livingston is leading the formation of a new legislative group focused on the needs of an industry which generates billions for Alabama’s economy and is vital to national security.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, he outlined that the Aerospace and Defense Caucus will be a bipartisan committee assembled to promote growth for the aerospace and defense industry in Alabama.

913

The number of jobs and amount of resources at stake make this effort a high priority for legislators from across the state, according to Livingston.

“Aerospace and defense is a more than $16 billion business in Alabama,” he explained. “We have more than $4 billion in exports, as well. That’s a huge industry in Alabama, and it’s going to do nothing but continue to grow.”

He believes the time is right to step up the state’s support given the Trump administration’s interest in space exploration.

“We have an excellent opportunity to play a key role in what will be the Space Command that President Trump stood up for last year and that they are trying to find a home for,” noted Livingston.

Livingston’s North Alabama state senate district includes parts or all of Madison, Jackson and DeKalb Counties, and he has a keen understanding of how much his area has contributed to America’s space program.

“Huntsville and Madison County have always played a key role in everything we’ve done in space, and I think we’ll continue to do so,” he said.

Yet, he emphasized the statewide impact of the work the Aerospace and Defense Caucus will set out to do.

In addition to Huntsville and its surrounding areas, he cited Mobile, Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Pike County among the different communities in the state supporting the industry.

“It’s exciting to see what’s happening in Alabama,” remarked Livingston. “Look at what we’re doing. We sent man to the Moon out of Marshall Space Flight Center. And what happens at Redstone with our nation’s military defense systems. If a member of the military gets it, it comes through Huntsville. We’ve got aviation command there. We’ve got Ft. Rucker which trains all of our helicopter pilots, and Maxwell Air Force Base has the War College. Auburn and Alabama do avionics and autonomous vehicles in both locations. The University of South Alabama with Airbus and Austal in Mobile.”

One of the responsibilities he expects the caucus to assume is to work with members of Alabama’s congressional delegation on what are largely federal programs.

“We’ll work with everyone’s office in Washington,” advised Livingston. “This is a bipartisan committee.”

In particular, he recognized Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) leadership in building America’s space program.

“The truth of the matter is there’s no telling what Senator Shelby has meant to the aerospace and defense industry not only in Alabama but overall for the nation’s defense and space program,” Livingston stated.

RELATED: ‘From Alabama to the Moon’ — Richard Shelby is the driving force making America’s space dreams a reality

The Aerospace and Defense Caucus is set to meet for the first time on Wednesday when Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth calls the group to order. Livingston said that he received encouragement to start the caucus from Ainsworth, who currently serves as the national chairman of the Aerospace States Association, and members of the industry in Alabama.

Livingston believes it is beneficial to bundle aerospace and defense issues together for the caucus to consider. He called the two industries “interconnected” in the present day due to shared missions and technologies.

The nation saw evidence of this recently when President Donald Trump credited an early warning system with saving lives in Iraq. The system was made up of Lockheed Martin satellites carried into space by United Launch Alliance rockets. Both companies have significant manufacturing operations in Alabama.

RELATED: Trump — Satellites launched by Alabama rockets saved lives in Iraq

Upon announcing his intention to launch the caucus, Livingston said he received immediate feedback from 60 to 70 legislators who wanted to participate. He expects even more than that to ultimately join.

As for the type of issues the Aerospace and Defense Caucus seeks to tackle, Livingston has a few already in mind.

He said the state currently does not have any research and development assistance in its economic development plans.

“Primarily, one of the things that we could do would be provide some research and development credits that would help a company locate to Alabama.” Livingston offered.

Building off of the state’s workforce development successes is another priority for the committee, according to him.

When asked about the importance of two-year and four-year college programs specifically tailored for aerospace and defense, Livingston was quick to respond.

“Huge,” he called them. “There are already programs in place. The Alabama Cyber School that’s opening in Huntsville is already in place.”

He referenced the numerous programs supported by Gov. Kay Ivey to bolster the state’s aerospace and defense workforce. Livingston thinks there are even more programs that can be developed by the business and education communities.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

RELATED: Ivey focused on continued growth for booming aerospace industry — ‘Alabama is an easy sell’

The ability to help small businesses who support the aerospace and defense industry may also be on the agenda for the caucus.

“There are a lot of smaller companies out there that do a lot of supply work for this industry in communities like Scottsboro and other places,” Livingston pointed out. “We have a small company in Skyline, Alabama, that has done some machining and tooling for NASA. They have a contract which grew out of a Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce initiative that was done a few years ago on how to do business with NASA.”

Feeling there is no shortage of ways to enhance the state’s position in space and defense, Livingston looks forward to working with his colleagues to move the industry forward.

“It’s exciting to see the future come to Alabama,” Livingston concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Watch: Ride inside Boeing’s Starliner on its historic journey to space and back

(NASA)

Boeing provided never-seen-before views of space flight when it released video footage from inside its Starliner capsule. Cameras inside the cabin carry viewers from launch to touchdown.

Designed in Huntsville, and delivered into space by an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Decatur, Starliner became the first American orbital space capsule to land on U.S. soil when it touched down at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on December 22. Previous American human-rated space capsules had landed in the ocean.

Watch:

68

The video shows two special participants inside the cabin on this uncrewed test flight. One was “Snoopy,” the tethered gravity indicator sitting in the pilot’s seat. Rosie the Rocketeer, a sensor-laden test dummy, was also along for the ride. Rosie helped provide data on numerous aspects of the flight, including force measurement at launch and landing.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Scott Dawson talks Kanye’s faith, nation’s challenges – ‘Leadership begins at the feet of Jesus’

(Scott Dawson/Contributed, YHN)

Scott Dawson believes servant leadership is essential to spreading the gospel and healing society, and he highlighted famed musician Kanye West’s spiritual growth as one example of where that leadership can make a difference.

Dawson, founder and CEO of the Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association, spoke on these topics and many others when he sat down recently with Matt Wilson on his “Living Life on Purpose” podcast.

743

As a former candidate for governor in Alabama, confronting the issues facing society and the nation is familiar ground for him.

When asked by Wilson what he viewed as the greatest challenge facing the country, Dawson was unequivocal in his response.

“Pride,” he stated.

He remarked that pride includes both arrogance and false humility.

“I sense that with all of us, including me,” Dawson said. “I’m speaking to you going, ‘this is my struggle’ because if we could understand how powerful the principle is to humble yourself before the Lord, things can happen.”

He cited Proverbs 16:18, which says, “Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

“That’s the reason why I say it’s the greatest problem of our country because when we are so proud that we are not listening to anyone else’s counsel, we’re bent on doing it our own way, then we’re up to be left to our own destruction,” said Dawson. “And that’s what needs to take place in the country.”

He believes it will take Christ-centered leadership to overcome these problems.

“Leadership begins at the feet of Jesus,” he stated. “We have got to be servant leaders. We have got to exemplify that in our own lives. People say there’s one life in the church, one life outside the church. There needs to be just one life. Jesus is not what I do, He is who I am. Do I still have those struggles? Yes. But every day, I’m in a relationship with Him. I’m being molded into his image. John the Baptist said, ‘He must increase and I must decrease.’ That happens in that life transformation that we’re walking through. I’m not acting like I used to act. And, hopefully, in five years I’m not acting then like I’m acting now because I’m growing in that relationship.”

Having established his ministry in 1987, Dawson described his calling as an evangelist as “an exciting adventure” as he continues seeking ways to answer the question of “how can I present the gospel in unique situations?”

One of those unique situations is with 21-time Grammy Award winner Kanye West.

West, whose album Jesus is King was released late last year, is set to participate in Dawson’s Strength to Stand conference. The event is taking place in Pigeon Ford, Tennessee, on January 18 through 20.

“Kanye has had this conversion experience and most people are talking about, ‘Well, is it genuine, is it genuine?’” Dawson explained. “I’m reminded that those are the same questions they had about Saul. Saul turned out to be the greatest missionary we’ve ever seen. Now, most people know him as Paul, but in the New Testament he was Saul of Tarsus.”

Dawson sees the spiritual walk for someone like West as a leadership opportunity for other believers.

“Even people that are cynics toward Kanye, they cannot get over the fact that his entire countenance has changed,” he said. “Something has taken place in his life. So us as leaders, let’s exemplify it. Let’s be quick to meet people where they are. Scripture does say very pointedly, ‘Without vision, the people perish.’ We’ve got to have some leaders around here that can see further down the road than past the end of their nose and say, ‘This is where we need to go.’ People don’t mind following a leader if they trust him or her and they believe that he or she has vision for the future.”

West’s growth as a Christian is something to which Dawson has paid close attention.

“His pastor, a young man from southern California, he’ll tell you,” he noted. “Kanye to his own admission, he’s a better husband, he’s a better father, he’s a better son because of what Christ has done in, and what he’s doing through, his life.”

And it has left quite an impression on Dawson.

“Jesus says ‘I have come that you have life and that you have it more abundantly’ and what I see coming out of Kanye right now is pure life,” he concluded.

Listen to the entire episode of Living Life on Purpose to hear Scott Dawson explain how he became an evangelist, how he handles life’s pressures, who he works to compare himself to in his ministry and much more.

For more stories of how people have lived their lives with a purpose, listen and subscribe to Living Life on Purpose with Matt Wilson on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify and Google Play. Matt’s guests include Andy Andrews, UAB head football coach Bill Clark, Congressman Gary Palmer and many others.

2 weeks ago

Trump: Satellites launched by Alabama rockets saved lives in Iraq

(ULA/Flickr, Army/Contributed, White House/Flickr, YHN)

President Donald Trump credited a space-based early warning system with helping save the lives of American and coalition forces during this week’s Iranian missile attacks on U.S. installations in Iraq.

The American military’s early warning defense system runs through a constellation of satellites orbiting Earth, and Alabamians built the rockets which powered those satellites into position to protect the nation’s troops.

Each of the four geostationary satellites, which are part of the U.S. military’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), were carried into space by Atlas V rockets made at United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Decatur plant.

220

“No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that worked very well,” Trump remarked during his address to the nation on Wednesday morning.

At a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper highlighted the importance of the systems in allowing troops to prepare ahead of the attack.

“We had a heads up in the sense that our warning systems and all those things were activated and watching and were able to give a sufficient warning,” Esper said.

A Department of Defense official provided more detail of the early warning system’s role in limiting casualties to SpaceNews.com and other outlets.

“U.S. early warning systems detected the incoming ballistic missiles well in advance, providing U.S. and coalition forces adequate time to take appropriate force protection measures,” the official stated.

The SBIRS satellites, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., occupy a critical role in America’s intelligence gathering. These satellites continually scan Earth and utilize infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of missiles being launched. Once identified as threats, the system calculates the trajectory of the missile and warns the national command authority.

ULA’s Atlas V rocket will power two more SBIRS satellites into space beginning in March 2021.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

NASA, Boeing load Space Launch System rocket for transport — ‘A historic milestone’

(NASA/Twitter)

NASA and Boeing loaded the first Space Launch System (SLS) onto NASA’s Pegasus barge in New Orleans on Wednesday. SLS will soon depart for Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for “Green Run” hot-fire engine tests.

Escorted by NASA, Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne employees, as well as a jazz band from a local high school, SLS embarked on the next phase of its development to become the most powerful rocket ever built and one which will propel the next American mission to the moon.

The entire effort has a distinctly Alabama flavor to it.

438

SLS is a specialized launch vehicle designed, developed and managed by Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Boeing is the core stage lead contractor, with the company’s Huntsville-based Space and Launch division managing its work. Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines will help provide the more than two million pounds of thrust necessary to send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in a single mission.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) emphasized the importance of SLS to America’s space program during a hearing on Capitol Hill last year.

“What’s important is to build that rocket and build it right,” Alabama’s senior senator directed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

On a conference call with media members, NASA and Boeing leadership discussed the progress of the program and the work which lies ahead.

Boeing SLS vice president and program manager John Shannon called the rocket “the most complicated vehicle that has ever been built in Michoud, by far.”

He noted that the engine tests at Stennis will reveal more information about the vehicle’s systems.

“The next big unknown for the program is when we put together the cryogenic liquids and oxygen tank and hydrogen tank and we look at the plumbing and all the systems and make sure they remain tight and perform as expected,” Shannon outlined. “We have high confidence that they will.”

Once the next round of tests concludes, the rockets are refurbished before the 10-12 day trip to Florida.

Shannon estimated that refurbishment will primarily involve inspections. He stated that in “a high vibration, high acoustic environment,” the question for team members becomes “did we break anything?” He cited thermal protection fixes as something that will need to be done because the fuel tank contracts when cold cryogenics are loaded in it, then expands again as it warms back up.

“By the time we take this vehicle to Kennedy Space Center it will be an extremely well-understood vehicle and we’ll have really high confidence in flying it,” Shannon concluded.

NASA officials expressed satisfaction with the headway made by the NASA and Boeing teams while highlighting the significance of the work.

NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard called the shipment of SLS out of the Michoud facility “a historic milestone.”

Morhard congratulated Boeing on finishing the core stage on schedule.

“This was something they said they were going to do, and they did it,” he said. “They kept their word. And we can’t appreciate that enough.”

As for the overall direction of the program, Morhard sees no hesitation in NASA carrying out its mission.

“I can tell you that our constancy of purpose will continue as to what we are doing and where we are going,” he resolved.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

‘Ohana’: Tua Tagovailoa is leaving Tuscaloosa but what about Taulia?

(Galu N Diane Tagovailoa/Facebook)

The Alabama Crimson Tide start a new era at the quarterback position this week with Tua Tagovailoa’s announcement he would enter this year’s NFL draft.

Head coach Nick Saban has no shortage of options in tapping his team’s next starting quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Mac Jones filled in admirably for the injured Tua, throwing for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns in his three starts.

Alabama’s quarterback room also includes former four-star recruit Paul Tyson, great grandson of the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, and Taulia Tagovailoa, younger brother of Tua.

The Tide signed five-star recruit Bryce Young out of California. Young is considered by many to be the No. 1 high school quarterback in the country and is being billed as “Alabama’s next great quarterback.”

With the departure of Tua, and the logjam at the quarterback position, could Taulia Tagovailoa seek playing time at another school?

574

Possibly. Here is a look at what some of his options might be:

Option 1 – Transfer in-state.

The logical program if he sought a transfer in-state would be UAB. Having moved all the way from Hawaii, the Tagovailoa family settled in Alabaster where Taulia finished his high school career at Thompson High School. UAB head coach Bill Clark is well-respected in the coaching profession and there would already be a familiarity with the Birmingham area.

With three years of eligibility remaining, Taulia could sit out a year as part of his transfer and then be ready to compete with would-be senior Tyler Johnston for the starting job.

Option 2 – Move with Tua.

This is the more intriguing option. The Tagovailoas are an extremely close-knit family. Would they move as a family to whichever NFL city Tua lands in?

Beyond the Cinncinati Bengals, who have the first pick and are expected to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the teams at the top of the draft order with the most need for a quarterback are the Miami Dolphins at pick five and the Los Angeles Chargers at pick six. Should the Carolina Panthers move on from Auburn legend Cam Newton, they will be looking for a quarterback at pick seven.

The Indianapolis Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could also try to move up into the top of the draft to select Tua.

The University of Miami: Tua to the Dolphins makes a ton of sense, and it could provide an opportunity for Taulia. Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz desperately needs to get the quarterback situation settled at The U. The Tagovailoas taking over the south Florida football scene would be an epic storyline.

UCLA: Alabama native Philip Rivers is nearing the end of his career with the Chargers, so they should be in the market for a quarterback in the draft. A move to Los Angeles naturally brings UCLA into play as a potential transfer option. Incumbent starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson has two more years of eligibility, but his 2,701 passing yards this season are not particularly intimidating. Chip Kelly could use an infusion of excitement into his Bruins’ program.

Charlotte: Head coach Will Healy is one of college football’s rising stars. He took Charlotte to its first-ever bowl game this year and would welcome a player of Taulia’s stature as he continues to elevate his program. If the Carolina Panthers decide to swap out one legendary quarterback who played football in the state of Alabama for another, this could be a great option.

USF: It remains to be seen if the Buccaneers want to commit to Jameis Winston or whether they want to make a run at trading up to take Tua. If they did, USF would seem to be the perfect destination for Taulia. New head coach Jeff Scott takes over after having coached Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence at Clemson. Taulia would be a big get for Scott.

Purdue: The Colts have made it known they are in the market for a new quarterback. Indy has a front office among the league’s best and an offensive line solidified for the next decade. The combination of those two things make it a highly desirable destination for Tua. It is a bit more of a riddle for Taulia, though. Purdue, an hour and change drive from Indianapolis, stands as the best option with the offensive-minded Jeff Brohm as head coach and decent competition in the Big Ten.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 weeks ago

Watch: Amazing video of historic Starliner launch

(ULA/Youtube)

Alabama-based United Launch Alliance (ULA) released a video this week with spectacular footage of Starliner’s launch atop its Atlas V rocket.

Designed in Huntsville, Boeing’s Starliner became the first American orbital space capsule to land on U.S. soil when it touched down at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on December 22. It is built to carry American astronauts to the International Space Station.

The specially configured Atlas V rocket, built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot facility in Decatur, had twin Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2 engines which combined for 44,600 lbs. of thrust.

Watch:

8

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 weeks ago

Where Yellowhammer got it right (and wrong): How high should Bama have been ranked?

The New Year’s Day bowl games are now in college football’s rear view mirror.

The days which follow bowl season are met with extreme highs and lows for most fanbases. Some teams want to fire their coach – again. Others will fall victim to irrational exuberance. These swings for fans are made worse by the fact that there is no game this weekend to help level out the emotions.

As the state waits breathlessly for the return of Tua Tagovailoa to become official, we join the masses and overreact to bowl season by reexamining the season-ending Yellowhammer Power Poll.

The poll was released immediately following the conference championship games in December.

Let’s see who was ranked too high, too low or just right.

585

1. LSU

Since our last ranking, Joe Burrow has won the Heisman Trophy and his team put on a clinic against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. The Tigers are rolling. There appears to be no better team in college football this year.

Final ranking: Correct

2. OHIO STATE

The Big Ten champion Buckeyes fielded a talented, physical team in the Fiesta Bowl last weekend. There were no weaknesses on that team. Setting aside the officiating for another day, Ohio State simply made one less play than Clemson. If the two teams faced off in a five-game series, we suspect head coach Ryan Day’s squad would come out on top.

Final ranking: Just right

3. CLEMSON

Pick plays, lucky breaks and officials on-the-take, those have been the ingredients for the college playoff runs by Dabo Swinney’s Tigers. Just kidding. Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent at quarterback and it showed on Saturday night. This is a well-coached and confident group. But it was evident in Phoenix that there is a drop off from the 2018 champs to this season’s version of Clemson.

Final ranking: Just right

4. OKLAHOMA

Big whiff. Jalen Hurts produced more than 5,000 yards of offense and came in second in Heisman Trophy voting. Oklahoma never gave Hurts the help he needed to be competitive against LSU. Burrow and LSU have steamrolled nearly every defense they have seen, but the Sooners defense got exposed in the worst way.

Final ranking: Way too high

5. GEORGIA

The Bulldogs were the best ball-control, defensive-oriented team in the country. They were also not going to make the same mistake two years in a row at the Sugar Bowl and lose to an overmatched opponent. Kirby Smart and his coaches deserve credit for getting the team ready to play. As tends to happen after a bowl win, the pendulum of fan emotion swung wildly as social media buzzed with suggestions that Georgia should have been a playoff team after beating a Baylor team which averaged around 35 in recruiting rankings the last three years. We suggest they pump the brakes in case they have forgotten the loss to 4-8 South Carolina and the drubbing in Atlanta.

Final ranking: About right

6. AUBURN

Auburn’s postseason matchup against Minnesota was always going to be a weird game, so we do not put much stock in its outcome. On one sideline was P.J. Fleck rowing his boat and coaching a team foaming at the mouth to play a big-name out of conference opponent. For its part, Auburn was in the middle of a transition with new coordinator Chad Morris no where close to putting his full imprint on the offense. The reality is that if there were games this weekend, not many teams would want to go out and play Auburn.

Final ranking: A little high

7. ALABAMA

The Crimson Tide went to Orlando and hammered a Michigan team which had a lot more incentive to play well than they did. The final version of Alabama was really good. Its receiving corps may have been the greatest in the history of college football. And Mac Jones showed what player development is supposed to look like. Najee Harris turned in a season cut from the same mold as other great Bama running backs. Finally, the metrics point to Saban’s team being among the nation’s best. Both Sagarin and ESPN’s FPI have the Tide ranked No. 4.

Final ranking: Way too low

If we could do it all over again, this is how we would rank them:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 weeks ago

Boeing collecting encouraging data from Starliner space capsule

(NASA)

A little more than a week after landing in the New Mexico desert, Boeing’s Starliner capsule continues to provide engineers and technicians with encouraging data from its historic mission.

Designed in Huntsville, and delivered into space by a rocket built by United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Decatur, Starliner became the first American orbital space capsule to land on U.S. soil when it touched down at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on December 22. Previous American human-rated space capsules had landed in the ocean.

Ahead of the spacecraft’s return to Florida, Starliner’s flight team has already learned about the performance of several systems based on initial data.

478

Data collected from onboard the spacecraft tends to provide the most complete understanding of what took place rather than merely relying on data transmitted in-flight back to mission control.

Capsule interior

Starliner is designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. So, maintaining the proper conditions inside the capsule during the Orbital Flight Test was among the most important objectives.

Boeing reported that the interior of the crew module looked the same as it did prior to launch, with the tethered gravity indicator (nicknamed “Snoopy”) in the pilot’s seat at landing. The company indicated the interior remained well-suited to support crewed missions and the fully operational life support system functioned as intended.

Rosie the Rocketeer, a sensor-laden test dummy, remained safely in place inside the spacecraft. Rosie has already conveyed data — picked up by her accelerometers and force measurement sensors — which is currently being evaluated. The data collected by Rosie is expected to confirm a soft landing.

The flight team will also soon release footage from four onboard cameras providing a unique perspective of the launch, flight and landing.

Exterior conditions

Starliner showed little scorching from the heat of atmospheric entry.

In addition, the spacecraft used only a small amount of onboard fuel during its flight and landing in New Mexico. This level of fuel efficiency confirms the aerodynamic models developed for Starliner.

Next steps

Having now taken the name Calypso, the spacecraft will have about a 10-day trip back to Florida. Once there, it will undergo more detailed inspections and get refurbished for its next mission.

Calypso will fly NASA astronauts Josh Cassada, Suni Williams and two international partner astronauts to the International Space Station.

In preparation for NASA’s effort to send Americans to space from American soil using American rockets, Cassada was among several astronauts who spent time at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot manufacturing facility in Decatur.

“A few of us had a chance to fly up to Alabama and meet some of the most talented, hardworking men and women at ULA who are building our rocket, and I’ll tell you, we are in great hands,” Cassada remarked.

Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO, observed the importance of those interactions between astronauts and rocket builders.

“It was great for the astronauts to see it, touch it and ask how it is put together,” said Bruno.

ULA’s delivery of the Starliner to a pinpoint position in space was one of the unquestioned successes of the mission.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called the performance of ULA’s Atlas V rocket “a very successful flight.”

Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the Space and Launch division of Boeing, added his praise of the Alabama-made rocket’s work.

“I will echo the great human-rated Atlas performance,” he said. “This not your father’s Atlas. Not only does it have a dual engine Centaur, but it’s got a lot of human-rated upgrades. So that was a big success.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 weeks ago

Who’s next in Bama’s line of succession?

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed, New England Patriots/Facebook, Clemson Football, Oregon Football, Ole Miss Football/Twitter, YHN)

The Alabama Crimson Tide start a new decade under head coach Nick Saban when they take the field to play Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on Wednesday. For the Tide, the previous 10 years amount to one of the greatest runs in the history of college football.

Saban will be gunning for his 157th overall win at the helm in Tuscaloosa. That is averaging more than 12 wins per season to go along with five national championships in the toughest version of the SEC in its storied existence.

The turn of the calendar to 2020 got us thinking: who will be leading the Tide at the conclusion of the next decade?

1229

It is not out of the realm of possibility that Saban is coaching the Tide in 2029. His energy and will to succeed has never diminished at any point in his tenure. It is doubtful those traits will change.

If he were to retire in the 2020s, who’s next in the line of succession? Saban has built a kingdom so close to perfect that it is tantalizing to ponder who might eventually get handed the keys.

We look at some potential coaches-in-waiting using three criteria: record of success, availability and fit. “Availability” might be the toughest one for Tide fans to wrap their minds around. It goes something like this: Bill Belichick is not leaving the Patriots to coach at Alabama. Neither is a head coach at Ohio State, USC or Texas.

“Fit” considers culture or some previous connection to the university or Saban.

Let’s dive in.

DABO SWINNEY

Record of success: Swinney has won national championships two out of the last three years and has appeared in the final game four out of the last five years. Check.

Availability: Timing may be everything here. Swinney has two sons currently on the roster at Clemson with a third on the way. As someone who has emphasized family throughout his career, it would be difficult to see him leaving them behind. The further Saban coaches into the decade, the less availability becomes an issue for Swinney.

Fit: #NeverDabo has become a popular meme on social media in recent years among Tide faithful. This seems to be a reaction to a style which is markedly different than that which has brought Saban unprecedented success. Nevertheless, the connections to the program run deep. Swinney bled Crimson from an early age growing up in Pelham. He was a member of the 1992 national championship team, and he was a position coach under Gene Stallings and Mike Dubose.

Bottom line: Swinney has to be the first call. It seems more likely, though, that he is the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend.

MARIO CRISTOBAL

Record of success: Cristobal now has two years under his belt as head coach for the Oregon Ducks, and things continue to trend upward. His team went 11-2 this year while claiming the PAC-12 championship. He has recruited notable upgrades in talent during that time, as well.

Availability: With roots in the Southeast, it would be tough to see him remaining anchored in the Northwest should an opportunity in Tuscaloosa open up for him.

Fit: Cristobal spent four seasons as Saban’s offensive line coach at Alabama. He has also sought to emulate Saban’s style in the Oregon program with a more physical brand of football, particularly along the line of scrimmage. Cristobal has held tight to his Tide lineage to the point that he has testimonials from Saban and three former Alabama players on his Oregon Ducks biography page.

Bottom line: Should his success continue, Cristobal may very well edge his way to the front of the line of succession.

JOSH MCDANIELS

Record of success: McDaniels has spent 11 seasons as offensive coordinator in the midst of the New England Patriots’ run to six Super Bowl titles. He had a brief stint as head coach of the Denver Broncos in the middle. He is regarded as Tom Brady’s favorite position coach. The football credentials are there with McDaniels.

Availability: There has long been speculation that McDaniels is hanging around to succeed Belichick in New England. Another line of thinking has McDaniels accepting an NFL head coaching gig within the next few weeks. It’s tough to know what his availability and interest in the Alabama job would look like a few (or several) years from now.

Fit: McDaniels is a Belichick disciple. And after watching HBO’s “The Art of Coaching” documentary featuring Belichick and Saban, it is hard not to think McDaniels would pattern a program based on what he has learned as part of that coaching tree. McDaniels also served one year as a graduate assistant for Saban at Michigan State.

Bottom line: Saban has transformed the Crimson Tide program into one that has the look and feel of an NFL team. McDaniels could provide some continuity to that approach. Even though he would be an instantly credible choice and bring stature befitting the job, McDaniels has never shown outward interest in the college game.

BILLY NAPIER

Record of success: Trending up. In his second season as head coach of the Louisian Ragin’ Cajuns, Napier led the program to a 10-3 season and a runner-up finish in the Sun Belt. This after a 7-7 finish in his first season.

Availability: Look for Napier to quickly climb the coaching ladder. A Power 5 conference job should be in the mix for him in the first half of the decade. From there, who knows.

Fit: This would be a really good fit. Napier was an assistant coach on Alabama’s 2011 and 2015 national championship teams. In all, he spent five seasons on the staff in Tuscaloosa. Not only that, his demeanor, work ethic, organizational skills and recruiting prowess are all cut from the Saban mold.

Bottom line: Napier is not going from Louisiana to Alabama. However, with several more years likely left in the Saban administration, he should be in a position by then to be in the mix for a big job like this. If you are looking for the best longshot bet to become the next head coach at Alabama, put something down on Napier — and find a safe place to keep the ticket.

LANE KIFFIN

Record of success: Kiffin can coach some offense. The jury is still out on him as a head coach. For all the hype surrounding the Lane Train, he has only recorded one season with double-digit wins. His head coaching record is 66-49 (61-34 in college). Yet, it feels like his record does not come close to telling the whole story.

Availability: Something tells us Kiffin is always available.

Fit: Alabama fans undoubtedly look fondly upon the success of the 2015 offense and the resulting national championship. He is also a relentless recruiter. But there is a lot of other stuff. Whether it is a burner social media account under the name “Joey Freshwater” or constant needling of opponents and conference officials, his act does not come without risk.

Bottom line: Things would really have to hit the fan in Tuscaloosa for Lane Kiffin to get hired as head coach.

MATT RHULE

Record of success: Rhule is one of college football’s hottest commodities for good reason. He took over a Baylor program that was a disaster and led them to an 11-2 record and a date with Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in only his third season. Previous to Baylor, Rhule led Temple to back-to-back 10-win seasons.

Availability: His name is frequently placed on lists of potential NFL hires. Maybe he sees an NFL job in his future. It is also possible he continues to build at Baylor. A devout Christian, Rhule has spoken often about how he and his wife felt called to be part of Baylor University, one of the largest Baptist-affiliated colleges in the nation. As the next decade moves along, it will be interesting to watch how open Rhule is to new opportunities.

Fit: Rhule is a driven individual and top-shelf coach. He will thrive wherever he ultimately lands.

Bottom line: If he is gettable in whatever year the job comes open, Rhule would be worthy of an offer which will close the deal.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 weeks ago

Top five stories for the Auburn Tigers in 2019

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter, Todd van Emst/AU Athletics, YHN)

Auburn’s athletic teams enjoyed tremendous success in 2019, with some reaching new heights and others returning to prominence.

Here are five top stories from the year:

1. Finally, a trip to the Final Four. Auburn basketball head coach Bruce Pearl led his squad to the school’s first-ever appearance in the Final Four. Auburn is now one of only eight SEC teams to ever reach college basketball’s magical milestone. If not for a missed call at the end of the game, who knows how the Tigers’ 2019 season ends. By any measure, as noted by CBS announcer Jim Nance, Auburn’s Final Four debut was a “massive achievement.” Pearl’s Tigers are finishing the calendar year much like they started it. Riding an 11-game win streak to start the season, they are projected as a high seed in the NCAA tournament once again.

432

2. “A second” Iron Bowl win in the last three years. Who knew Auburn fans in 2019 would find a fresh way to tell an old joke? (Not that they cared whether the other version had gotten old.) This year’s version of the rivalry proved, yet again, that head coach Gus Malzahn is adept at managing every one of the 3,600 seconds which make up a college football game. The 2019 Iron Bowl also showed why Gus Malzahn is the greatest coach to ever walk the sidelines at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Malzahn is the only SEC coach not requiring an interpreter to have beaten Nick Saban. With the Tigers’ 48-45 thriller over Alabama, Malzahn joins Les Miles as the only coach to have ever beaten Saban three times.

3. Derrick Brown comes back. One could argue that the second biggest story on the list does not happen without the third. In February, Malzahn got the news that Brown and seven other draft-eligible Tigers had decided to forgo early entry to the NFL and return to school. Brown anchored a stout 2019 defense in which he was virtually unblockable. Likely a top five pick in the 2020 draft, Brown received his due in the form of numerous postseason awards. He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-America. Brown was also the 2019 recipient of the Lott IMPACT Trophy which annually recognizes a college football player for outstanding character.

4. Omaha! The 2019 Auburn baseball team reached the College World Series for the first time in 22 years. The Tigers won the Atlanta Regional and the Chapel Hill Super Regional on their way to Omaha. Following a 38-win season in 2019 that included the ultimate road trip to Nebraska, the expectations are high going into 2020. Look for coach Butch Thompson’s team to be right there in the mix again next summer.

5. Beating Oregon in Texas. Coaches like to emphasize that no single game means more than any other. But it is hard not to look back and see that winning the skirmish with the eventual PAC 12 champion was big. It vaulted the Tigers into the national discussion right out of the gate. And had they dropped the opener, beating Tulane and Kent State the following two weeks would not exactly have amounted to cleansing wins. Having to wait three weeks to get back on track would have been unsatisfying for Malzahn’s team. Instead, Bo Nix connected with Seth Williams with nine seconds left on the clock, and the Tigers cruised to a 5-0 start.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 weeks ago

Top five stories for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2019

(Betsy Gary/Contributed, Crimson Tide/Contributed, YHN)

A few more legends were made at the University of Alabama in 2019. With Nick Saban’s program continuing to operate in the thinnest air, it is not surprising that Tide sports drove much of the discussion nationally.

Here are the top five stories this year:

1. Tua Tagovailoa’s strength in the face of adversity. When Kirk Herbstreit interviewed Tua following his season-ending injury, Herbstreit’s most enduring takeaway from the conversation was the strength of Tua’s uplifting spirit. It is natural to think Herbstreit would have been impressed with the record-setting quarterback’s grasp of offensive concepts or his ability to read defenses. Instead, Herbstreit raved about Tua’s positivity and the effect Tua has had on his own family and even Herbstreit, himself. Grounded in a strong Christian faith, how Tua handled himself off the field was ultimately a much bigger story in 2019 than his play on the field.

533

2. Jalen Hurts becomes an ambassador for the process. When Hurts quarterbacked the Crimson Tide it was easy to see he was in many ways a reflection of his coach. Disciplined and hyper-focused, Hurts was relentless beginning with his debut game against USC as a freshman. This year’s Oklahoma version of Hurts was soaked in that same fuel. It was evident that the principles of Saban’s process by which he runs his legendary program were deeply engrained in Hurts. When Oklahoma football’s own social media account tried to highlight some of the Sooners’ impressive offensive stats, Hurts slid into the comments section writing, “Rat poison.” After a blowout win against Texas Tech in September, Hurts was spotted in the weight room working out while still wearing his game pants. Hurts may turn out to be the first successful franchisee of Saban’s methods.

3. The Tide fielded one of the greatest wide receiver units ever. People need to take a minute and appreciate how great Alabama’s wide receiver corps was this season. Florida and FSU had some standout groups in the 1990s. USC had a few in the early 2000s. There were a couple of times LSU had a great tandem. However, no one has had four who threatened defenses every single down like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The foursome combined for 3,431 of Alabama’s 4,122 receiving yards, and only Jeudy averaged less than 17 yards per reception.

4. “When you get to the top of the mountain, you become the mountain.” Those are the words of Saban as part of HBO’s “The Art of Coaching,” a documentary highlighting his work and relationship with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. The documentary itself provides fascinating insight into how the two men became the best in their respective professions. Any person in a position of leadership, in any industry, would be well-served to watch and learn from these men. This quote is also a good reminder of exactly the kind of historic run on which Saban and the Tide find themselves. When the Tide square off against Michigan on January 1, Saban will be gunning for his 157th win at the helm in Tuscaloosa. That’s averaging more than 12 wins a season along with five national championships in the toughest version of the SEC in history. Tide fans, stop … breathe it in … best run ever.

5. Alabama hires a new basketball coach. Perhaps nothing could better symbolize the difficulty of serving as head men’s basketball coach at Alabama than the jump from No. 4 to No. 5 on this very list. But Nate Oats is game to try. Hired in March, Oats will likely have a season or two honeymoon to get the program headed in the right direction. Having enjoyed significant success with a smaller program, Oats has a reputation for being a bright basketball mind with intense focus.

Bonus: An entertaining impersonation of Saban at Christmas recently made the rounds on social media. It was good. But there will really only be one true Saban impersonator, and that is former Tide player Rob Ezell. Enjoy.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Auburn a No. 2 seed in ESPN’s latest NCAA Tournament projection

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

The Auburn men’s basketball team is riding an 11-game win streak, and this hot start to the season has earned it a projected No. 2 seed in ESPN’s NCAA Tournament projection.

ESPN’s NCAA Tournament expert Joe Lunardi published his latest round of projections on Monday morning.

He currently has Auburn listed as the No. 2 seed in the South region.

107

This is an exercise Lunardi has undertaken for several years with uncanny accuracy. In coming up with his projections, Lunardi considers the same metrics the NCAA tournament selection committee uses to select the field of 64 plus play-in games.

Lunardi has five teams from the SEC included in his projected field.

Head coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers have the opportunity for a 12-0 start to the season when they take on Lipscomb on Sunday at Auburn Arena.

The Tigers begin SEC play January 4 when they travel to Starkville to take on Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have an 8-3 record so far this season.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Mixed results from Starliner’s Orbital Flight Test

(ULA/Facebook)

At 6:36 a.m. Friday, Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100) Starliner took flight atop an Alabama-made rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. However, a timing glitch occurring after separation is going to prevent it from carrying out one of the mission’s key objectives.

The inaugural mission for Starliner was a step toward NASA’s goal of once again launching American astronauts into space from American soil using an American rocket. The last time the nation sent its astronauts into space from home soil was the final space shuttle journey in 2011.

The uncrewed test flight aimed to deliver the spacecraft to the International Space Station. Starliner is built to ferry astronauts to and from the space station on future trips.

The timing malfunction led to the spacecraft missing the opportunity to set the proper course for connecting with the space station on this trip.

992

At a press conference Friday morning, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine discussed the current state of the mission which will extend for at least another 48 hours.

“Today, a lot of things went right,” he announced. “And this is, in fact, why we test.”

This comment from Bridenstine outlines the mixed results from this eagerly anticipated mission.

The success column

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) delivery of the Starliner to a pinpoint position was one of the unquestioned successes of this mission. Bridenstine called the performance of ULA’s Atlas V rocket “a very successful flight.”

Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the Space and Launch division of Boeing, added his praise of the rocket’s work.

“I will echo the great human-rated Atlas performance,” he said. “This not your father’s Atlas. Not only does it have a dual engine Centaur, but it’s got a lot of human-rated upgrades. So that was a big success.”

Built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot facility in Decatur, the Atlas V took on a special configuration in order to power Starliner into space, and it carried out its duty well.

The mission successfully met several objectives through the performance of ULA’s rocket.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of ULA, outlined these accomplishments following the launch.

He mentioned that they had successfully flown the capsule without a payload faring and that the aerodynamic skirt around the capsule, designed to improve control, functioned as hoped. The ascent covers separated as they should have, while the rocket also flew a flattened trajectory for future crew safety purposes.

Bruno also mentioned that the vehicle achieved separation “perfectly.”

The disappointment column

From the public’s point of view, the number one objective of the mission was to dock the Starliner at the International Space Station. And that did not happen. NASA had hoped to dock Starliner to the space station within about 26 hours of its launch.

Bridenstine explained that, after separation from the Atlas V, Starliner failed to perform a necessary “orbital insertion burn.”

Chilton described the burn as “how you catch the space station and rendezvous.”

While unable to provide the root of the problem so soon after the malfunction, Bridenstine said, “It appears as though the mission elapsed timing system had an error in it.”

This error prevented Starliner from knowing when to do the orbital insertion burn.

According to Bridenstine, by the time mission control finally got its own signal to the vehicle to do the burn, it was too late.

Once Starliner failed to execute the burn, it missed its chance to meet up with the space station.

What’s next?

Bridenstine pointed to NASA’s institutional mindset as a reason for confidence that the agency would meet its goals.

“We do really difficult things and we do it all the time,” he pronounced. “And, yes, we have challenges, but what do we do? We figure out what those challenges are, we fix them, and we move forward. That’s what we do as an agency. It’s our history and it’s what we’re going to do now.”

One of the immediate challenges ahead is the safe return of Starliner. Chilton estimated “the odds are high” for a complete recovery of the spacecraft. He said landing could occur Sunday morning at the earliest in White Sands, New Mexico.

Bridenstine joined Chilton in outlining a successful landing in White Sands as a major objective of the mission which can still be met. Starliner is currently the only American-built capsule certified to land on land through a unique system of airbags and parachutes – allowing the capsule to be reusable up to 10 times.

Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, believes Starliner’s current condition is suitable for landing.

“The spacecraft is doing great,” he said. “The thermal control system is working fine. The flight computers are working well. The cabin environment is great. The spacecraft has recovered well and is doing well.”

Beyond recovering Starliner and learning what caused the malfunction, a priority for NASA and Boeing will be understanding what a crewed version of this same flight would look like.

Bridenstine thinks the mission could very well have gone much better had a crew been in the spacecraft. He cited astronaut training to deal with problems as something that may have benefitted the mission.

“If we had crew in there, number one, they would have been safe,” he declared. “The crew would have been safe. And had they been in there, we may very well be docking with the International Space Station tomorrow, had they been in the spacecraft.”

Astronaut Nicole Mann supported Bridenstine’s contention that having astronauts on board would have increased chances for success.

“Had we been on board there could have been actions that we could have taken,” she said.

As to whether there will be another uncrewed mission before Mann and her fellow astronauts climb aboard Starliner, Bridenstine said, “It’s too early to know.”

As evidence that another uncrewed mission might not be necessary, Bridenstine pointed out that the first time a space shuttle docked at the space station no prior automated missions had occurred.

In addition, Mann expressed the trust of the astronauts in the spacecraft and the mission.

“We are looking forward to flying on Starliner,” she remarked. “We don’t have any safety concerns.”

Another priority for the program will be overcoming what is sure to be some skepticism resulting from the shortcomings of this mission.

Perhaps illustrating this concern, Bridenstine was quick to shed light on a post-launch briefing he provided to Vice President Mike Pence.

“He maintains that he is very positive as chairman of the National Space Council in our ability to once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” Bridenstine outlined.

He also emphasized a commitment to transparency as he and others explore the causes of the Starliner’s malfunction in the coming days and weeks.

“It is important for us to build trust with the American taxpayer so that we can continue to do these magnificent things,” Bridenstine concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Alabama construction company lays field of dreams for Rocket City Trash Pandas

(HOAR/Contributed, Rocket City Trash Pandas/Facebook, YHN)

“I’d wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet. … The thrill of the grass.”

Those were the words of Shoeless Joe Jackson as portrayed in the movie “Field of Dreams.”

As Shoeless Joe testifies, you cannot have baseball without the grass. And now, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have their grass.

Birmingham-based Hoar Construction announced this week that it had successfully completed installation of the grass for the playing surface at Toyota Field, the home of Alabama’s newest Minor League Baseball team. Crews laid down 102,000 square feet of high-grade Bermuda turf at the stadium in Madison.

559

The new Tifway 419 sod is considered one of the premier natural grass surfaces for athletic fields and is expected to be fully grown in time for the Rocket City Trash Pandas’ first-ever home game on April 15, 2020.

Installation for what will be a highly-stressed playing surface was a complex process.

In order to lay down the new turf, Hoar Construction had to plan and execute an intricate strategy to ensure its sustainability as a field suitable for a professional sports team.

Tifway 419 is unique since it needs to be 12- to 18-months old before harvest, compared to the relatively short three- to four-month growth cycle necessary for other types of sod. The sod was originally grown for the Tennessee Titans’ practice facility in Nashville but became available after the Titans opted for an alternative sod better suited for the wear and tear of pro football.

Another challenge was finding a compatible soil.

Crews ultimately decided to use a sand that was dredged in Ohio and barged down the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River port in nearby Decatur, Alabama. From there, crews trucked more than 7,000 tons of sand to the construction site, with every 500-ton segment going through required testing to ensure high-grade quality.

“The stringent requirements that were presented to the construction partners required everyone to be nimble and innovative,” said Michael Raymond, assistant project manager at Hoar Construction, in a release from the company. “The process we used for the sand is very comparable to medical testing. We conducted a ‘physical’ every 500 tons, and then we did ‘bloodwork’ every 1,500 tons. There was simply no room for error, and that commitment to excellence ensured a final product that we believe is one of the best playing surfaces anywhere in the minor or major leagues.”

The team visited the farm to harvest 2.5 acres, selecting it patch by patch to ensure the highest quality. Once the sod was harvested, it had to be installed within 24 hours, which required additional logistical planning for transportation crews making the four-hour trek from West Tennessee to Alabama. Maintaining a high standard was of particular concern since rain had been scarce for the two months previous to selection, and then it rained for seven consecutive days before the turf was harvested.

“The absolute most visible and memorable feature for fans in any ballpark is the field,” said Ralph Nelson, CEO of the Rocket City Trash Pandas. “When we observed the meticulous work of the Hoar team and the quality of the final product, we knew our fans would be in awe of the field’s appearance. I was also able to tell our Major League affiliate with great confidence that their players would be playing on one of the finest playing surfaces in the country.”

The new 82,328-square-foot, $40 million ballpark is the anchor facility for the Town Madison mixed-use development, a 563-acre modern and walkable urban community that provides a variety of dynamic experiences for living, shopping, dining, working and entertainment. Toyota Field will have a capacity of approximately 7,500 fans, including a combination of fixed seating, premium suites, a stadium club, party decks, picnic areas and standing room only areas. The stadium will serve as the new home for the Rocket City Trash Pandas, the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels that is owned by BallCorps, LLC.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

NASA selects Alabama’s ULA to launch next-generation weather satellite

(ULA/Contributed)

NASA has selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket to power the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-T (GOES-T) into space.

The GOES-T is the third of the next generation of weather satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This series of satellites will provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s weather, oceans and environment, real-time mapping of total lightning activity and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather. GOES-T is the second to last satellite planned for the GOES constellation.

227

The Atlas V rocket, manufactured at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot facility in Decatur, has “more than 15 years of 100% mission success founded on a heritage of more than 600 Atlas program launches,” according to the company.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of ULA, expressed his company’s excitement for the opportunity to continue its partnership with NASA and NOAA on this valuable mission.

“ULA is pleased once again to be selected to launch a GOES mission and we look forward to working with our mission partners from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for this important launch,” Bruno remarked. “ULA and its heritage vehicles have a long history with the GOES Program and have launched all 17 operational missions to date.”

Considered one of the most reliable and versatile rockets, the Atlas V is set to power the critical test flight for Boeing’s Starliner on Friday as the nation works toward launching American astronauts into space from American soil.

The Alabama rocket maker boasts a launch success record of 100% and has successfully delivered more than 130 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, strengthens the United States’ national security, unlock the mysteries of the solar system and support life-saving technology.

The GOES-T launch is scheduled for December 2021 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Special event celebrates Seventh Amendment in Tuscaloosa — ‘I express to jurors what a historic thing they are doing serving on a jury’

(TH/YHN)

The Alabama Association for Justice (ALAJ), one of the state’s largest legal organizations, held the final gathering in its fall event series celebrating the drafting and ratification of the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution. Taking place in courthouses across the state, the events also honored those who work throughout Alabama’s legal system.

Josh Hayes, ALAJ president, noted the event coinciding with the 230th anniversary of the Bill of Rights being proposed to the states for ratification and the importance of the Seventh Amendment to his organization.

“There is a lot of talk in Alabama about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, and there should be,” he noted. “But in that same document was the Seventh Amendment which guarantees Alabamians and Americans the right to a trial by jury. And that’s what we stand for as an organization. That’s what we fight for in Montgomery.”

374

He also sought to recognize the judges and courthouse personnel, in Tuscaloosa and across the state, working to ensure fairness in the legal system.

“We’re really here to offer thanks to the people who make the wheels of justice turn every day,” Hayes remarked.

State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) spoke to those in attendance, calling it “a privilege” to be in the room with what he termed were “real legal heavyweights.”

A fellow member of Allen’s Tuscaloosa delegation in the state legislature, State Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette), spoke to the quality of information provided by ALAJ during the legislative process. He mentioned that information is essential to making good policy decisions that affect their constituents and the legal system.

As part of the event, Hayes presented to Judge Brad Almond a resolution passed by the Alabama legislature commending the judiciary and its personnel for their work.

Almond, presiding judge for the 6th Judicial Circuit, spoke to the importance of the work performed by juries in Alabama. He mentioned that it is a duty of which he reminds them regularly.

“I express to jurors what a historic thing they are doing serving on a jury,” Almond said. “I want them to appreciate that, to know when they serve on juries and when they vote is when they are doing their duties as citizens. I tell them we can’t do our job without them.”

Proposed to the states in the fall of 1789, the Seventh Amendment reads as follows:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Hayes previously elaborated on its importance for the court system and the maintenance of our civil society.

“The right to trial by jury is part of who we are as Americans so we’re judged by people just like you and I — our peers,” he said. “Whether you represent a large corporation or whether you are an injured person on your own, in a jury room that is the one room where everybody is equal — the American courtroom.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Alabama aerospace industry looks to benefit as Senate preps for vote on crucial defense bill

(ULA, YHN)

Alabama’s aerospace industry looks to gain from the final version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which the U.S. Senate plans to vote on early this week.

A previous version of the same bill in the U.S. House could have been a major setback for the state’s aerospace stakeholders.

As Yellowhammer News reported earlier this year, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, had proposed to alter a critical national security space launch program through language in the NDAA. Smith’s proposal would have negatively impacted Alabama’s aerospace industry, which is heavily involved in the program.

However, the language Smith sought to include in the NDAA has been left out of the final version of the bill now in front of the Senate.

289

The Air Force program, called Launch Services Agreement (LSA), awarded three companies the opportunity to develop launch vehicles for use in national security space missions under public-private partnerships. Those companies chosen by the Air Force were Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA), Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin.

News of ULA’s award to carry national security payloads brought praise from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and others.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal and numerous manufacturers and suppliers located in the Yellowhammer State have taken on an elevated role in the effort, as well.

An industry source has previously noted that maintaining the program’s original framework helps solidify the state’s position even further because of the amount of investments that members of its own industry have already made in the program.

Any suggestions for revising that framework have had some in the industry concerned that companies who fell behind, or were not willing to invest the necessary resources, could end up getting rewarded.

Smith’s proposed revisions in the House version of the NDAA had been characterized as a “SpaceX earmark,” referring to the California-based launch provider which was set to benefit from the proposed changes.

The senior Democrat’s controversial earmark would have created a $500 million fund for SpaceX to tap into to play catch-up on the development of a launch vehicle as it attempts to procure a contract with the Air Force in the next phase of the program.

The Air Force issued a memo outlining reasons why it opposes any changes to the process. Its chief concerns being that changes would not reward competition and would fail to meet national security needs.

The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on final passage for the NDAA.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

If character decides the Heisman Trophy, Jalen Hurts wins in a landslide

(The Heisman Trophy/Facebook, Betsy Gary/Contributed, YHN)

Nine yards.

That’s the amount of offense LSU quarterback Joe Burrow generated per game more than Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts this season.

That’s it.

Picking up a mere 27 extra feet each game, Burrow is now the prohibitive favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

569

Both quarterbacks had great years. In fact, their seasons largely mirrored each other. Both experienced breakout campaigns after previously respectable — but not necessarily exceptional — seasons. Both accounted for 51 touchdowns in 2019. Hurts and Burrow have each carried their teams into the college football playoff where they face off on December 28.

Hurts leads the nation with 11.76 yards per pass attempt. He is second in the nation in passing efficiency, with a 201.5 rating. The quarterback who sits third in passing efficiency? Joe Burrow.

Hurts may very well lead the nation in another category. It is not as easy to measure as most other statistical categories in the game, but one which should put him over the top for college football’s most prestigious award.

That category is character.

And it matters for the award. The stated mission of the Heisman Trophy is to recognize “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”

You may not be able to attach a number to Hurts’ character and integrity, but it has been on display at every point during his college football career.

Who better to testify to the type of person Hurts is than Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Saban believes no player in the country has exhibited the level of integrity Hurts has shown.

“There’s never been a guy that anywhere in college football that did things more correctly and set a better example as a leader than Jalen Hurts did while he was here by staying here after he was replaced as a starter,” Saban observed.

Rather than dwell on being replaced in the middle of a national championship game, Hurts grew from it.

“That day made me who I am,” he told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Hurts has led his new team with the same standard of excellence to which he held himself throughout his time in Tuscaloosa. The nation got a sneak peek at his legendary work ethic when he hit the weight room after a blowout win against Texas Tech in September. And he showed his uncommon focus when he slid into his own team’s Instagram account to comment “Rat Poison” on a post touting the Sooners’ impressive offensive stats.

Hurts befriended a young man who had been twice assaulted by bullies in videos that went viral across the country. In a typical show of humility, Hurts remarked that meeting the young man “was an inspiration to me.”

He added, “It meant the world to me honestly to meet him.”

None of this comes as a surprise to fans of the Crimson Tide.

In an era when players are more apt to begin working on their brand than working in their communities, Hurts shared his time with others. He had a special relationship with Alabama superfan Walt Gary. The two of them enjoyed snapping selfies together, with Hurts adopting a tradition of capturing Walt’s weekly game predictions on video.

These are a few of countless examples of the kind of character and integrity Hurts will carry with him to the Heisman ceremony in New York City on Saturday.

Hurts has nothing left to prove on the field. And his character has made him a winner off the field whether they call his name or not.

If character and integrity are the deciding factors for the award, expect Jalen Hurts to win in a landslide.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Malzahn makes huge hire for Auburn offense

(Auburn Football/Twitter, YHN)

Gus Malzahn’s staff got a lot stronger on Tuesday.

The Auburn head coach announced that he has hired Chad Morris as offensive coordinator, according to a release from the team.

Morris, a native of Dallas, Texas, most recently served as head coach at Arkansas and SMU. Previous to those tenures, he coordinated record-breaking offenses at Clemson from 2011-2014.

Morris was not on the market long after leaving the Arkansas program. Teaming up with Malzahn on the Plains seemed a natural fit for both coaches.

345

Malzahn agrees.

“I’m super excited to have Chad Morris join our staff at Auburn,” he explained. “He’s a tremendous offensive mind who has had success with several top-ranked offenses during his time in the college ranks. I’ve known Chad for almost 20 years and he is a tireless worker and a perfectionist. He is a great addition to our program and I look forward to him helping Auburn win championships!”

Morris formed his offensive philosophy largely based on his studying of Malzahn’s approach. As a high-profile high school coach in Texas, Morris traveled to Arkansas to visit Malzahn. What resulted was Morris crafting an offensive system from the principles he learned during those visits with Malzahn.

Morris cites that connection as instrumental to his arrival in Auburn.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to join Coach Malzahn’s staff at Auburn,” he said. “ I’ve known Gus since the early 2000s and consider him a dear friend and someone that helped me get into the profession at the college level. I’ve admired the success he’s had at each of his stops and look forward to adding to the success that he, his staff and the players have built. We are excited about joining the Auburn family.”

Morris is noted for his development of quarterbacks which should be a welcome contribution to the staff with true freshman Bo Nix looking to elevate his game going into next season.

There is at least one other familiar face in the football complex for Morris. He and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele coached together at Clemson in 2011. Steele was defensive coordinator at Clemson that year.

In addition to his oversight of the Tigers’ offense, Malzahn will likely count on Morris to enhance Auburn’s recruiting efforts in the prospect-rich state of Texas.

A graduate of Texas A&M, Morris spent 16 years as a head coach in Texas high school football, posting a 169-38 overall record, while capturing three state titles.

Malzahn’s 12th-ranked Tigers face off against Big Ten opponent Minnesota in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on January 1. Kickoff is noon CT.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

Kirk Herbstreit on Tua: ‘He’s finding ways to lift up the spirits of everybody, including me’ — Chance of return is ’50-50′

(24/7 Sports/Twitter)

Kirk Herbstreit provided some fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into Tua Tagovailoa’s approach to football and life on a recent edition of the ESPN College Football Podcast.

Herbstreit assessed what he thinks Tua’s chances to return to the Crimson Tide are based on his interview which aired on ESPN last week.

361

“It might sound crazy, but in college football these players still care about winning,” Herbstreit said. “Listening to Tua, there’s part of him that is not comfortable with how he went out.”

Considering those difficult circumstances, Herbstreit believes leading the Crimson Tide for another season is definitely on the table for Tua.

“I would guess it’s still 50-50 right now, and then in the next few weeks he’s going to let everybody know his intentions,” he remarked. “But I think he’s honestly, really back and forth at this point.”

Herbstreit pointed out that one of the highlights of his interview with Tua was being able to also speak with his parents.

Tua’s parents recounted to Herbstreit their first time seeing Tua after his injury.

“They kept talking about how emotional it was and everything they’d been through,” he said. “They kept talking about, ‘We’d go down and try to talk to him in the locker room and here’s Tua making us feel better. We’re trying to console him and he’s making us feel better.’”

Herbstreit then asked them where Tua got his uplifting spirit from.

“His mom paused for a second and then she just started weeping and like just crying about basically how much they love Tua, how much they appreciate him, almost like, ‘Why do we deserve a son like this? What did we do to deserve this?’ Not just his abilities but his spirit most importantly. She was just overcome with emotion. Even his father who is very stoic and very proud, he was as well.”

Having an opportunity to spend time with Tua enabled Herbstreit to gain a better understanding of the Tide quarterback’s character.

“He’s wired different,” elaborated Herbstreit. “He’s unique.”

ESPN’s star college football analyst continued, “He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He’s not sitting around feeling sad. He’s finding ways to lift up the spirits of everybody, including me. I got done with him, like I felt better just about life, about people, about humanity when I got done sitting down with him.”

Herbstreit expressed his appreciation for Tua no matter what decision he makes about his future.

“He’s a special kid,” he concluded. “He’s one-of-a-kind, he really is.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

SEC winners and losers from the 2019 college football season

(LSU Football, Alabama Football/Facebook, Auburn Football/Twitter, Sugar Bowl NOLA, Get Up, Ole Miss FB, Texas A&M Football/Twitter, YHN)

Another college football regular season is in the books, and the conference for which it simply matters more has the top-ranked team in the playoff.

Bowl prep will soon begin for the league’s nine teams playing in the postseason, and the early signing period is less than 10 days away.

So now seems like as good a time as any to look at who fared well, as well as those who didn’t.

1160

WINNERS

Coach O. It has been a long journey for LSU head coach Ed Orgeron. He has twice held the title “interim head coach,” yet he finds himself now leading the No. 1 team in the country after navigating an undefeated regular season. He is a shining example that there is no set path for getting to the top.

While more is out there for his LSU Tigers, their season is an overwhelming success no matter what happens in the playoff. Coach O avoided stubbornness this offseason and overhauled his entire offensive approach. The result is the No. 1 offense in the country and a quarterback who will collect the Heisman Trophy this weekend.

Gus Malzahn. Auburn’s head man used this season to remind everyone why he is the greatest coach to ever walk the sidelines at Jordan-Hare. His Tigers have played in a bowl game every one of his seven seasons on the Plains. After picking up a huge neutral-site win over No. 6 Oregon, the eventual Pac-12 champion, Malzahn has the opportunity to register double-digit wins for the third time in his Auburn tenure.

With one of the most difficult schedules year after year, he has faced perhaps the toughest seven-year run of any coach in college football history. And last month he notched his third win over Nick Saban, an achievement only one other coach on the planet can claim.

Tua. Alabama fans are not going to be the only ones who miss their fearless on-field leader. We all are. Anyone who appreciates football enjoyed watching him spin the ball out of that quick, effortless throwing motion. When adversity hit by way of his season-ending hip injury, Tua showed the country what he was truly made of. He was outspoken about his reliance on his faith to carry him through the trial. And, unlike other some other superstar players in recent years, Tua stuck around to support his teammates even though his college career is likely concluded.

That’s why he’s firmly in the winner category this season — and in life.

Derrick Brown. No one can ever blame a player for leaving school early to become a high draft pick. Brown could easily have done that, and he would have been congratulated in the process. Instead, he returned to Auburn for a season which saw him become virtually unstoppable on the field. His performance garnered him Defensive Player of the Year honors, with more awards expected to pile up.

Brown is also another example of an athlete displaying character off the field. Set to graduate this month, he’s involved in numerous causes in the community and is a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which seeks to recognize players for integrity both on and off the field.

Paul Finebaum. There’s a common saying in marketing that your brand should make someone mad. For Finebaum, mission accomplished. He is at a point where he is maximizing his exposure on the SEC Network and ESPN properties. He has perfected his schtick and has the ability to set fans, players and coaches alike off with his commentary and observations. Finebaum’s currency is controversy, and he’s trading feverishly these days.

Don’t expect any drop off in performance next year, either. The league returns personalities such as Coach O, Saban and Jimbo Fisher. And now Ole Miss has gift-wrapped Lane Kiffin back into Finebaum’s world. Another sneaky pick for Finebaum fodder will be new Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman. We’re in the golden era of Paul Finebaum.

LOSERS

Greg Sankey. Sankey, commissioner of the SEC, denied an injured Tua a waiver to cheer his teammates from the sideline of the Iron Bowl. While Tua was on crutches following season-ending surgery and obviously unable to play, Sankey determined Tua would still count against the SEC’s 70-player limit for road teams. This put Tua in the unfair position of having to take a spot away from another player in order to be with his teammates during the biggest game of the year. Tua embodies everything that’s right about SEC football. This should have been an easy decision for Sankey.

Then there’s the refs. Officiating in the SEC has been criticized this year for its inconsistency and some glaring mistakes in high-profile games. Sankey did not help himself with an awkward mid-season explanation of the conference’s approach to officiating. Here’s to a better Sankey season in 2020.

12th Man. It’s realistic to think Texas A&M expected a bit more when it guaranteed Jimbo Fisher $75 million to be its head football coach. For $75 million, they should be expecting quite a bit more. In Jimbo’s two seasons in College Station, his teams have gone a combined 16-9, with a 9-7 record in conference. Not terrible. But not $75 million good, either. This year, the Aggies did not beat a single ranked team, and squeaking out a win against the SEC’s worst team (Arkansas) proved to be the difference in getting to seven wins.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy summed up the pain of Texas A&M’s mediocrity in 2019 on a conference call announcing his team’s invitation to the Texas Bowl against the Aggies. Gundy called Texas A&M “the best 7-5 team in the history of the NCAA.”

Ole Miss urinating guy. That’s what to type into Google when you are looking for more info on the stupidest play of the 2019 season. Elijah Moore is his name. Everyone has seen the play by now. Any way you parse it, Moore’s pretending to lift his leg and urinate like a dog in the endzone cost Ole Miss a win in its most important game of the year. No matter how much his coaches tried to cover for him and say they were going to kick the extra point, a two-point conversion for the win was the only play. Instead, Moore cost his team the win and cost his coach a job.

The silver lining to Moore’s stupidity is that it brought Lane Kiffin back to the SEC. An Ole Miss player’s peeing like a dog got Lane Kiffin hired. Sounds about right.

Paul Finebaum. He did it. He went there. At 7:18 a.m. CST on Tuesday, December 3, Paul Finebaum declared that the Nick Saban dynasty has ended. It takes a unique talent to land in both categories of this column. Ole Miss urinating guy almost pulled it off because he brought Lane Kiffin to Oxford. But Finebaum is a generational talent right up there with Bo Jackson and Tua. Suggesting the Saban dynasty is over far exceeds the stupidity of costing a 4-8 football team a win. Has Finebaum not seen Saban dance, lately? By our calculations, Saban will coach until his 110th birthday. So at his current pace of winning, we estimate he will bring the Tide another 21 national championships before he finishes in Tuscaloosa.

Tide fans are better off printing their “38” bumper stickers than worrying about Finebaum’s prediction that Saban’s reign is over.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Jalen Hurts gets one more shot at LSU — 3 playoff takeaways

(College Football Playoff/Facebook, YHN)

The matchups for the college football playoff are set, and Jalen Hurts is back in Atlanta to face No. 1 LSU.

Hurts’ No. 4 Sooners are set to take on the Bayou Tigers in the Peach Bowl on December 28 in the first round of the playoffs. No. 2 Ohio State takes on No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

Here are three takeaways from the seedings:

1. There will be points scored in Atlanta. LSU has the No. 1 ranked offense in the country. The No. 2 ranked offense? Oklahoma. LSU and Oklahoma have the No. 32 and No. 24 ranked defenses, respectively. Hurts is an explosive quarterback with playoff experience in a system which has a history of putting up big numbers in big games. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is the likely Heisman Trophy winner. Expect this game to be a classic Big 12-style game flying up and down the field.

192

2. The balance in Ohio State’s offense will expose Clemson’s losses on defense for the first time this season. With one of the worst schedules for a playoff team in recent memory, no one really knows how good Clemson is. The soft schedule has allowed Clemson’s defense to mask some of its losses on defense. On the defensive line alone, five players are now in the NFL who were with Dabo Swinney’s Tigers last season. That defense has not come close to getting stressed like it will in Arizona by Ohio State.

3. Prediction: LSU and Ohio State face off for the championship. LSU has gotten healthy in the secondary at just the right time. Three more weeks in between games should help and will be key against a dynamic Oklahoma offense. Ohio State has been the consensus most complete team in the country and one has to wonder how Clemson will handle seeing a good team for the first time all year. Throughout the entire year, LSU and Ohio State have looked like the best two teams in the country. Why would that change now?

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia