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.

18 hours ago

Briarwood Christian team wins third consecutive Bassmaster national championship

(Kyle Jessie/B.A.S.S.)

The Briarwood Christian duo of Tucker Smith and Hayden Marbut on Saturday won the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors.

The National Championship victory is the third-straight title for Smith and the first for Marbut.

The Alabama duo secured two smallmouth bass for 7 pounds, 14 ounces on the final day of the competition, which featured windy conditions; their final three-day total was 47-5.

146

“It feels amazing, especially because of the time of year,” stated Smith, who is now a freshman at Auburn University. “[It started] superhot to where your glasses are fogged up from sweat, to being so cold you wished you were at home.”

“It’s kind of crazy to win both times of the year,” he added.

With the victory, the Briarwood team earned $5,000 in scholarship money and another $200 for the big bass of the tournament, a 7-5 lunker caught on Day 1.

The Day 1 bag also earned Smith and Marbut an $875 scholarship from the family of Hunter Owens in memory of Owens, who finished in the Top 12 of the Bassmaster High School National Championship two years ago before tragically dying in a car accident.

The competition was held on Kentucky Lake.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Saban on preparing for Mississippi State, Mike Leach: ‘This is really going to be kind of a different preparation for us’

UA Athletics/Youtube

Every team in the SEC has blemishes on their record this season except Alabama. The Crimson Tide are the only undefeated team left in the conference and are looking to extend their record to 6-0 on Halloween night.

Mike Leach is in his first season as head coach of Mississippi State, and expectations were through the roof after knocking off LSU Week One. Leach brought his famous air-raid offense to the one conference that is known for heavy run offense and tough defenses.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in his Monday press conference about preparing for the Bulldogs, “Everyone knows about the kind of offense they run. A very pass-oriented offense, a lot of spread formations. They do a really good job in executing it.”

491

The Bulldogs have not won a game since the first game of the season, as teams are starting to figure out how to defend the pass-heavy attack. Saban will be preparing to roll the Tide through Mississippi State.

“This is really going to be kind of a different preparation for us on both sides of the ball relative to what we normally see,” Saban said while discussing preparation for Leach’s team.

Alabama has historically been known as a team geared up to stop the run game. However, the conference has slowly been converting to more offensively balanced teams through the years. As we are seeing each week, this has made SEC teams more prepared to handle a heavy passing attack.

Mississippi State’s offense isn’t the only thing Alabama will prepare for this week. The Bulldog defense has been playing well this year, and Saban said the scheme on defense is also different for the conference.

Saban said about the Bulldog defense, “Defensively, they have really played well this year, they are one of the top defensive teams in the league. They play hard, very physical, and have got a little different kind of scheme.”

How will the Tide be able to game plan for an offense that they are not used to seeing week in and week out? Figuring out what defensive schemes to run will be key for Alabama’s preparation. Zone coverage has been better for stopping Leach’s offense, according to Saban.

“When you’re that spread out on the field and they’ve got five guys going out for a pass all the time. … When you play man to man somebody gets beat and you’ve got an issue, and when you play zone you have a better chance to play inside out and break on the ball,” he advised.

One key to stopping Mississippi State’s offense will be getting in the backfield and disrupting the quarterback.

When Saban was asked about how he felt his pass rush played against Tennessee last week he said, “When people seven-man protect, which is what they did a lot in the last game, you’re not going to get a lot of pass rush with four guys rushing. So, I think sometimes it’s relative to who you are playing against.”

Things could definitely be improved in this aspect of the defensive side.

Saban acknowledged this, saying, “I definitely think this an area that we need to improve and certainly an area we are going to work hard on because it’s going to be important in this game.”

The pass rush will be one of the keys to Alabama defeating the Bulldogs this Saturday. When a team passes as much as Mississippi State, getting the quarterback off his game consistently will make the job of the secondary much easier.

The Bulldogs will travel to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to take on the Crimson Tide at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 days ago

Three numbers, two notes, one quote: Wrapping up Auburn vs. Ole Miss

(Auburn football/Twitter)

Auburn earned a much needed SEC win on the road at Ole Miss in Week Five. The Tigers’ offense put together its most effective and efficient effort of the season. Auburn’s defense struggled to stop the Rebels’ rushing attack, but did manage to intercept two passes. Meanwhile, the special teams units for Auburn had two bad snaps that could have been disastrous, seemingly touched a kickoff that Ole Miss recovered for a touchdown (the officials ruled otherwise), and had a 100 kickoff return for a touchdown negated by a holding penalty.

The up and down performance led to a one-score game with Ole Miss having a chance to tie the game on the final play. It wouldn’t be an Auburn football game without some measure of strangeness, chaos or officiating ambiguity, and the contest versus the Ole Miss Rebels certainly delivered.

Today, we look at three numbers, two notes and a quote that summarize the 35-28 victory for Auburn over Ole Miss.

918

Three numbers

100%
A number of things have ailed the Tigers in the early part of the 2020 season, but nothing has been more impactful than struggles in the redzone. Against Ole Miss, the Auburn offense seemed to find some much needed answers to the redzone questions. The Tigers scored touchdowns on all four trips inside the Ole Miss 20-yard line versus the Rebels.

Certainly, any touchdown is a good touchdown, but Auburn was able to run the ball for all four scores in the redzone, which should build confidence moving forward. Admittedly, Ole Miss has the worst defense statistically in the SEC. However, the Tigers should be able to take some momentum and confidence forward on offense after this performance.

+2
Auburn forced two turnovers and gave away none against Ole Miss, and that proved to be critical in the game. The Auburn offensive staff clearly had a plan to limit quarterback Bo Nix’s exposure to high risk plays by calling almost exclusively short passes and rushing attempts. The strategy paid off as Nix completed 76% of his passes and avoided any interceptions.

On the other side of the field, Ole Miss actually attempted roughly the same strategy as Auburn. However, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral threw an interception in the first quarter from the Auburn four-yard line that cost the Rebels points they could have used later in the game. The matchup between Auburn and Ole Miss came down to minimizing risk, and Auburn was more successful in that category.

507
Over the past decade especially, football has become a passing game. Quarterbacks are more accurate, rules are more favorable, and analytics say that passing is a better strategy. However, Auburn and Ole Miss turned back the clock in their matchup by rushing for 507 yards and seven touchdowns combined.

The ground game took center stage between the Tigers and Rebels, and neither defense came close to stopping their opponent’s rushing attack. That fact is likely encouraging for both offenses and worrying for the defenses. It will be interesting to see if these teams can repeat those performances throughout the rest of their schedules, but the running game was the story in Oxford.

Two notes

Bo Nix bounces back
The following axiom is true: Quarterbacks get more credit than they deserve in wins and more blame than they deserve in losses.

That isn’t to say that some quarterbacking performances aren’t spectacular and others dreadful. Of course, that is the case, just like players at any other position. However, by nature of the position, quarterbacks get headlines for better or worse.

Last week, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix got lots of headlines that exclusively fell in the “for worse” category, and they were largely accurate. Nix would be the first to tell you that his performance against South Carolina was not acceptable.

He came back this week and did exactly what was needed to lead his team to a victory over Ole Miss. Nix protected the football, completed timely passes, kept plays alive with his legs, and was a major factor in the rushing attack. Auburn’s offensive coaches put Nix in better positions, and the quarterback responded by turning in his best performance of the season.

Expect Nix and the Auburn offense to try and replicate the formula from the Ole Miss game throughout the rest of the season. Bo Nix has not been comfortable in drop-back passing situations, so those should be minimized. The Tiger’s quarterback is best when getting the ball out quickly and being utilized in the run game, so that should be what the gameplan is built around.

Special teams scare
Special teams have usually been somewhere from solid to spectacular under Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. However, this week in Oxford, special teams almost (or perhaps should have) cost the Tigers the game. Bad snaps, untimely penalties and a kick that was very close to being touched and fumbled, combined for a day that Auburn special teamers would like to forget.

Auburn is not a good enough team on offense or defense to withstand many special teams performances like the one that just happened at Ole Miss. Those issues must be corrected quickly if the Tigers plan to come up with more SEC wins.

One quote

“It’s a tough one to swallow, probably tougher than the other ones because it was right there.” – Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on the Rebels’ loss to Auburn.

Lane Kiffin discussed several things after losing to Auburn, but this was what rang most true. There may have been missed calls by officials that swung the game away from the Rebels, but there were multiple chances for Ole Miss to win that they did not capitalize on. Ole Miss led by one point and got the ball back with 4:50 remaining in the game. If the Rebels picked up a couple of first downs, they could have drained the clock and won the game.

However, Ole Miss was unable to gain a first down and punted the ball back to Auburn with just over two and half minutes left in the contest. At that point, the Rebels’ defense had an opportunity to stop the Tigers, but Bo Nix found receiver Seth Williams for a 58-yard touchdown pass that would ultimately win the game.

Ole Miss and Auburn looked to be pretty evenly matched throughout the game, but Auburn was able to make enough plays at the end to steal a win on the road.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

and 3 days ago

College football power rankings: This week was all about Bama, Big Ten contenders and pretenders

The Alabama Crimson Tide seems to be able to pick its score on a weekly basis. And now that the Big Ten season is underway, get ready for the national media to inflate its relevance in the playoff race.

Every week of college football brings a little more information about which teams have the staying power to make a playoff run.

Here is what our experts had to say about this week’s Yellowhammer Power Rankings.

147

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas AM
8. Oklahoma State

The lowdown: It was a boring weekend for college football with no top ten matchups. We know Ohio State and Heisman caliber Justin Fields belong in the top 5.  As expected, they looked like a playoff team. Speaking of playoff teams, Cincinnati made a strong case this weekend with their thumping of SMU.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. BYU
7. Texas A&M
8. Wisconsin

The lowdown: The Big Ten joined the 2020 college football fray this weekend. Ohio State proved to be what we thought they would be, led by standout quarterback Justin Fields. Wisconsin and Michigan also earned big wins in their first games, while Penn State lost by the nose of the football to drop to 0-1. Once the Pac 12 begins play next week, every team will be underway.

4 days ago

Alabama hits on all cylinders against Tennessee

(Alabama Football/Twitter)

The No. 2 Crimson Tide came into Saturday’s matchup with Tennessee riding a 13-game win streak over the Volunteers. Alabama was able to easily extend that streak to 14 with a 48-17 victory.

Every aspect of the game was clicking for the Tide as the offense continued to excel. The defense also stepped up for the second week in a row. Bama’s defense held Tennessee to 302 total yards of offense, while the Tide offense managed 587 yards.

Head coach Nick Saban discussed the importance of this annual contest, saying, “It’s a great rivalry game and I know it means a lot to a lot of people in the state of Alabama.”

493

“I’m certainly proud of our players for the effort that they put in and the game that we played to win tonight… It’s always great to win,” said Saban in his postgame remarks.

While the game will certainly go down as a win, the victory was clouded by star wide receiver and returner Jaylen Waddle suffering what was likely a season-ending injury.

This season, Waddle has already accounted for 25 receptions for 557 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

The offense did not skip a beat against Tennessee with Waddle out, with sophomore wide receiver Slade Bolden serving as the “next man up.”

Bolden filled Waddle’s role at receiver as well as punt returner, looking good against Tennessee while accounting for 94 yards on six receptions.

Mac Jones likely missed throwing to Waddle, but still had a great game. He threw for 387 yards against the Volunteer’s secondary. Jones also had an 80% completion rate this week. According to Vegas odds, he is now the second favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. The running game went well for Alabama as well, thanks to another strong performance from Najee Harris.

The star running back for the Tide had another outstanding performance in rushing for 96 yards and three touchdowns. The offensive line was opening up holes in the Tennessee defense all game long.

Tennessee couldn’t get many points on the board thanks to Bama’s stingy defense.

Defensively the Tide are getting better each and every week. Ole Miss was the team that first exposed Alabama’s defense. However, since then they have been progressing and really held their own this week.

Malachi Moore had an exceptional game against the Volunteers, including a scoop and score that really started to put a cap on the game and deflate Jeremy Pruitt’s team. That touchdown put Bama up big at the beginning of the second half.

While discussing the defense, Saban was asked about Alabama’s secondary and how they are growing. He responded by saying, “At times I think we did okay, but I think we gave up at least three plays, maybe four.”

He then added, “In the second half though we really shouldn’t have given up the plays because we were playing split safety coverages…you can’t give up explosive plays.”

Saban will always be critical of his teams — that’s what makes him such a great coach, as he never gets complacent. Still, he had something to be proud of and that was the defense as a whole for Alabama.

He had this to say about his defense, “This is probably the best we’ve played… I was kind of proud of the way the guys played. They played with a little more confidence, and we were pretty aggressive overall.”

Alabama will host Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa next weekend in what should be a good game to test the waters on what works best for a Tide offense without Waddle.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 days ago

Saban: Jaylen Waddle out for the season

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed)

Star University of Alabama wide receiver and returner Jaylen Waddle is out for the remainder of the 2020 college football season, per head coach Nick Saban.

Waddle was injured returning the opening kickoff out of the end zone during the Crimson Tide’s Saturday game at Tennessee. Reports indicate that Waddle suffered a broken ankle.

173

“He’s out. He’s out. He’s out for the year,” Saban told CBS at halftime of the game. “And it’s a shame because the guy’s a great player. It’s exciting for college football to see a guy play like that. I hate it that he gets hurt on a play like that.”

The legendary coach acknowledged that players are generally not supposed to return kickoffs from so deep in the end zone, adding, “[B]ut he’s a great player so you’ve got to let him use his judgement.”

Sophomore Slade Bolden has now undertaken Waddle’s wide receiver slot and punt returning duties. Waddle is a junior and could have played his last snap for the Tide. He is considered one of — if not the — most explosive players in college football.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Auburn downs Ole Miss 35-28 in Oxford

(Auburn football/Twitter)

Well, it wasn’t dominant or pretty, but Auburn traveled to Ole Miss and came away with a much needed victory.

There is still plenty of room for improvement from the Tigers, but it will be much easier for the coaches and players to make that happen with a 3-2 record instead of the 2-3 record staring them in the face with about five minutes left in the contest.

Auburn survived again on the backs of standout offensive performances by Tank Bigsby and Seth Williams, along with a little help from another questionable officiating decision that may have deprived Ole Miss from a much needed touchdown late in the game.

Even after the apparent muffed kickoff return that the referees missed, the Rebels had opportunities to win the game and were unable to do so.

804

The Rebels are likely to be upset with the officiating, but a final offensive drive that came up short due to mismanaging the clock and dropped passes are what ultimately sealed their fate.

Take a look at the key things that decided Auburn’s 35-28 win over Ole Miss:

Overpowering rushing attacks
Some combination of talented tailbacks, perceived weakness in the defensive fronts, less than perfect weather and a desire to protect quarterbacks who combined for nine interceptions last week led to both squads planning to run the football this week.

Whatever the exact reasoning, the results were extremely positive for both offenses today. Auburn rushed for 224 yards on 47 carries, while Ole Miss ran for 283 yards on 51 attempts.

There were seven players between the two teams who rushed for at least 48 yards, including three different quarterbacks. Interestingly, the quarterback run game seemed to be designed from the beginning as a way to involve the signal callers without placing too much pressure on them with decision making. The gameplans were effective for both squads, as neither defense ever really solved the opponents rushing attack.

Finally, just a quick mention that Auburn freshman phenom Tank Bigsby rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss. He has now rushed for over 100 yards in three consecutive games and also had an incredible 100 yard kick return for a touchdown called back on a completely unnecessary hold behind the play.

At this point, any call that involves giving Tank the ball is a good one. Bigsby must be the focal point of the Auburn offense.

Protecting the quarterback
Protecting quarterbacks Bo Nix and Matt Corral (of Auburn and Ole Miss, respectively) was critical for both squads today. Both play-calling and offensive line play managed to do that for most of the day.

There were a total of four passes thrown more than 10 yards down the field before Ole Miss’ final drive of the game. Instead, both teams opted for running the football and throwing quick passes to limit chances of turning the ball over.

On the day there was only one egregious decision made throwing the ball, and it ultimately was the difference in the game. In the first quarter, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral threw an ill-advised pass on 3rd and goal from the 4-yard line that was intercepted by Auburn defensive back Roger McCreary.

The fact that the Rebels came away with no points while having a 1st and goal situation, put them in a situation of needing to score a touchdown on the last drive to tie the game instead of a field goal being enough to win.

Conversely, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix played a clean game passing and was a huge success running the ball. At this point, Nix’s most valuable trait may be that he causes problems for opposing defenses with his legs.

To his credit, Nix did make a really good throw to receiver Seth Williams with just over a minute left in the game.  The star wideout’s reception and 42 yard run became the game-winning touchdown. Bo Nix bounced back from a brutal game last week and did what was asked of him today, leading to a win over the Rebels.

Defense?
The game is rigged against defenses today as rule changes, spread offenses and dynamic quarterbacks make the task of stopping an opponent nearly impossible.

Today the Tigers’ defense did its job in a couple of senses. First of all, they kept the opponents from scoring more than their own team (obviously the ultimate goal). Also, Auburn held Ole Miss to its lowest scoring total of the season through the first five games. Lastly, the Tigers remain the only team in the SEC that has not given up more than 30 points in a game this year (as arbitrary as that number may be).

However, it is extremely concerning and quite disorienting to see Auburn defenses get pushed around. Auburn’s calling card throughout its history has been a physical brand of football, especially defensively. Watching Ole Miss rack up nearly 300 yards rushing at 5.5 yards per attempt was strange.

Credit the Rebels’ players and coaches for planning and executing a rushing attack that was outstanding today, but Auburn left a lot to be desired defensively.

Last week’s second half performance against South Carolina combined with today’s showing versus the Rebels means that Auburn’s defense must toughen up going forward.

It appears that the Auburn offense may be finding its footing in the running game, so if the Tigers’ defense can stiffen, that is a proven recipe for a successful football team. The Auburn defense can improve its schemes, tackling and effort. It must do so for the Tigers to win games through the remainder of the schedule.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

5 days ago

Bama vs. Tennessee – 3 keys for the Tide to get it done

(Kent Gidley/UA Athletics)

Alabama has been taking care of business thus far in the 2020 season and look to continue that trend this afternoon as they travel to Knoxville.

The Crimson Tide will face the Volunteers today at 2:30 pm CT in a rivalry that has been dominated by Alabama in recent history. Bama has won the last 13 meetings and can make it a 14-game win streak today if they can win on the fourth Saturday in October.

Here are the three keys to making that happen.

443

Getting the defense off the field on third down

Defense has been a focal point for Alabama since the start of the season. There were times that the Tide defense was a concern especially in the Ole Miss game. However, it seems the defense has improved as evidenced by the performance against a good Georgia team last week.

Third downs are going to be key for the Tide defense. Tennessee should be a relatively easy opponent to stop considering they only have a 26 percent conversion rate on third downs this season.

If Alabama can get their defense off the field on third down and get the ball back to Mac Jones and the offense, things could get ugly early for the Vols.

Continue the strong passing attack

Jones has been progressing very well through the first four games of the season. His success is thanks in part to his arm and decision making. Yet, we can’t forget about the unbreakable offensive line or the best receiving core in the nation.

Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, and John Metchie III are the dynamic trio that make the passing attack so lethal. Think back to Saban’s earlier teams with great receivers. For instance, Julio Jones from 2008-2010 was one of the greatest Tide receivers ever but was the only real star at the position. Now the Tide have three stars at wide out, and they make opposing defensive backfields pay.

For Tennessee, it is tough to know what to defend against. Najee Harris is running all over opponents this year, but as earlier stated the passing game is the best it has ever been at Alabama. What do both of these phases of offense use as fuel to jump start their game? A strong offensive line.

Offensive line play

This one goes without saying, but I’m going to anyway because the line doesn’t get enough credit. Of course, the experts see it, and the fans know it is there. Too many stars on the field is the reason that the line is overshadowed.

The entire Tide offense is reliant on how well the big guys up front play, and the numbers Alabama is putting up are the best testament to the their ability. Total offensive yards for the season are above 2,200 with only four games played.

If Alabama’s offensive line keeps being dominant, and the defense continues to grow throughout the season, the Crimson Tide will likely find themselves in a playoff game later this year.

If these three keys are followed this afternoon, they will extend their win streak over Tennessee to 14.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 days ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. Ole Miss edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

Auburn travels to Oxford, MS, this week to take on the Ole Miss Rebels (1-3). Ole Miss’ season has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride in the early going. New Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has brought excitement and a high powered offense that was averaging well over 40 points per game after its first three contests against Florida, Kentucky and Alabama. The issue in those games was that the Rebels’ defense was allowing over 50 points per game.

In Ole Miss’ recent game with Arkansas, the Rebels held the Razorbacks to 33 points (which isn’t great, but was marked improvement). Ole Miss’ problems against the Razorbacks suddenly occurred on the offensive side of the ball when the team managed only 21 points and threw six interceptions.

579

This week, Ole Miss will try to put together a complete team performance against an Auburn squad that is looking to bounce back from a loss to South Carolina. Today, we look at three areas that will be important in determining the winner in the matchup between Auburn and Ole Miss.

Ole Miss inside receivers
Lane Kiffin has brought a dynamic passing attack to Ole Miss that averages over 330 yards per game led by quarterback Matt Corral. The Rebels do a good job of scheming specific plays and looking to create opportunities for big plays, but they do an even better job of creating good matchups for their best players.

Ole Miss’ two leading receivers are Elijah Moore (who leads the SEC in receptions and yards) and tight end Kenny Yeboah who is a transfer from Temple University. Both of these players are explosive and likely to be deployed in multiple ways throughout the game. However, both of these athletes do a lot of their work over the middle of the field from initial slot or tight alignments.

Expect that to be the case this week as well since Auburn’s defense has given up big plays each week from opposing players lined up in the slot. The Tigers’ defense has struggled to defend dynamic inside receivers over the last couple of years, so they must have a good plan to try and neutralize Moore and Yeboah to slow down the Ole Miss offense.

Depleted Ole Miss defense?
Defense has been a struggle for Ole Miss over the last few seasons. However, this season has been a nightmare defensively as the Rebels are allowing opponents to score an average of 47 points per game so far. Clearly, that indicates some mixture of personnel issues and an inability to find innovative coaching measures to slow down the opposition.

As if it had not been tough enough already, this week Lane Kiffin indicated that multiple offensive players have been moved to defense because of COVID-19 (either infections or contact tracing protocols), affecting that side of the ball.

Auburn’s offense has a great opportunity this week to find its identity and put up points against an Ole Miss defense that was last in many statistical categories even before having COVID-19 issues. The Tigers must find success on offense this week to win the game and gain some confidence for the remainder of the season.

Turnovers
The turnover battle is critical in every game. But, this week is a matchup of teams that combined for nine interceptions thrown last week in losing efforts. Protecting the football will be paramount for both squads if they hope to leave the game victorious.

Ole Miss’ defense has not proven the ability to stop any of its opponents, so Auburn quarterback Bo Nix and his offense cannot give away possessions by turning the ball over. If the Tigers can hold onto the football, that should lead to a productive day on offense.

Similarly, the Rebels’ offense has become one of the most explosive groups in the SEC. If Ole Miss can avoid throwing the ball to the other team, they are likely to score a lot of points every week (including this one).

The game between Auburn and Ole Miss may be a high scoring affair, so neither team can afford to fall behind in the turnover margin and expect to win the game.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

6 days ago

Saban discusses how he recruits great players to Tuscaloosa and builds their value

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are currently undefeated through the first four games of the season. How does he build a championship-caliber team year in and year out? Recruiting.

Thursday evening, Saban appeared on his weekly radio show “Hey Coach” with Eli Gold to discuss all things Alabama and answer questions called in from fans. Of course, questions about the upcoming game versus Tennessee were asked frequently. However, there was some interesting recruiting talk between Saban and Gold.

Saban discussed everything from his recruiting pitch, to how he does not promise playing time like other schools but rather an opportunity to play and be developed by the best.

440

When Saban was asked about how he goes about his recruiting, he replied, “One of the biggest things we fight in recruiting is people historically tell guys (Alabama) has got all of these players there, and you’re not gonna be able to play, but if you come to our place you’ll be able to play earlier.”

He pointed out that this form of counter recruiting against Alabama actually ends up helping the Tide get the kind of players they want.

Saban explained, “That does us good in that we kind of get a lot of guys that are dogs I’m gonna call them… that means they’ve kind of got a competitive spirit, that he wants to be the best, wants to play against the best, and wants to compete against the best.”

The legendary coach made some comparisons to some greats that were “dogs” in his opinion, adding, “Kind of the Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Michael Jordan type guy. Which these types of guys make your team really really good.”

Some that Saban pointed out as having that competitive spirit were receivers John Metchie, Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith. He also mentioned tight end Miller Forristall as having that competitive edge that he looks for in recruiting.

He discussed what opportunities for development look like in his program, saying, “Almost every player wants to play when he is a freshman, but the thing is that how you develop, and what kind of player you become three years from now is the most important thing in creating value for yourself as a football player.”

Regarding a path to the NFL, Saban mentioned, “If you really want to play in the NFL someday it’s probably not gonna happen just in your freshman year, it’s gonna happen in terms of what you develop into three years from now.”

This recruiting approach has clearly worked out very well in Tuscaloosa since Saban got to town. The amount of four and five stars they recruit every year puts them near or at the top of recruiting lists every single year.

Alabama doesn’t have to offer gimmicks or promises to play. All they have to do is show where their players came from and where they are now. The Crimson Tide’s alumni success speaks for itself.

Saban ended the recruiting conversation by saying, “This is the approach that we have always tried to use in recruiting, not really promising them playing time, but an opportunity to play and to develop as a player. Which I think is what creates value for their future.”

WATCH:

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 days ago

Hometown heroes: Bama, UAB, Troy, Jax State and more

(Pixabay, YHN)

Before anyone has even seen a single snap of Big Ten football, national sports media this week returned to its pandemic panic room and pronounced the conference’s season a failure.

Sports media argued tirelessly during the summer months that it was not cheering for football to get canceled. However, following Nick Saban’s false positive coronavirus test, it did exactly that here, here and here.

At Yellowhammer, we are cheering for college football. More specifically, this week, we are mainly cheering for underdogs.

Let’s get to some picks.

583

THE BASICS

Alabama (-22) at Tennessee: The largest margin of victory in this series was a 51-0 win by Alabama in 1906. Alabama’s current win streak over the Vols began a mere three years later (or at least that is what it feels like). Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt allegedly fired an assistant coach mid-game on Saturday. That is a bad start to what is, for some people, a favorite week of the year. Those people will not be disappointed.

The pick: Alabama 34, Tennessee 17

NC State at North Carolina (-14.5): North Carolina went into Tallahassee a double-digit favorite and lost. That may have had more to do with Florida State getting its first quality coaching since Jimbo Fisher’s national championship season. Mack Brown has a good team. Now it is a matter of them playing like it.

The pick: North Carolina 40, NC State 20

Texas State at BYU (-28.5): The Cougars have been a fun story this season amidst their mini-revival. They are physical along the lines of scrimmage, and quarterback Zach Wilson has worked his way up to No. 4 on ESPN’s Heisman Watch List. If this team remains undefeated in late November, we can all hope they handle the playoff talk a bit more graciously than UCF has in recent years.

The pick: BYU 30, Texas State 13

HOMETOWN HEROES

Louisiana (-2.5) at UAB: This is a game between two of the nation’s more underrated coaches, UAB’s Bill Clark and Louisiana’s Billy Napier. Do not be surprised to see both coaching in the SEC sooner rather than later. This will be an emotionally-charged game for Louisiana, as it will pay tribute to former assistant coach D.J. Looney, who passed away suddenly in August. The Ragin’ Cajuns plan to wear his name on the back of their jerseys. This could be as good a game as has been played at Legion Field in a while.

The pick: UAB 24, Louisiana 20

Georgia State at Troy (-2.5): The Trojans bring a two-game win streak into this Sun Belt matchup. Both teams have scored points freely so far this year. Georgia State is ninth in the country in rushing offense and 73rd in scoring defense.  Troy is a respectable 33rd in scoring defense and 31st in total offense. All signs point to a shootout.

The pick: Georgia State 42, Troy 35

Jacksonville State at Florida International (-10): This game was originally scheduled for September 2. Since its postponement, the Gamecocks have gone to Tallahassee where they gave Florida State a scare and won a couple of tight ball games against Mercer and North Alabama. It was good to see this one get back on the calendar because no one ever turns down a trip to Miami.

The pick: Florida International 38, Jacksonville State 30

BUYER BEWARE

Tulsa (-11.5) at South Florida: There was a time when the Thursday and Friday night college games meant something, and visiting favorites were constantly on upset alert. That has not been the case in a while. In late October, Tulsa has still only played two games, a close loss to No. 6 Oklahoma State and a win against Central Florida. South Florida is in rebuild mode under first-year head coach Jeff Scott, whose team has started to show just a glimmer of improvement the last few weeks. Anyone tuning in to watch this game should not expect to see a work of art.

The pick: South Florida 20, Tulsa 16

Last week: 4-1 straight up; 3-2 ATS
Season: 13-2 straight up; 9-6 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

7 days ago

This weekend’s college football TV schedule

(Pixabay)

For a printable version, click here. Pro tip: Save the image below to your phone for quick and easy access all weekend.

(Note: All times are Central)

52

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @hayden_crigler.

1 week ago

Three numbers, two notes, one quote: Wrapping up Auburn vs. South Carolina

Auburn scored nine points in its first two possessions versus South Carolina. On those two drives, the Tigers amassed 138 yards and were effective running and passing the football. Conversely, the South Carolina Gamecocks had a grand total of negative 12 yards and two punts after their first two offensive possessions. Midway through the first quarter, it appeared Auburn would win this game going away.

Then on Auburn’s third drive of the game, quarterback Bo Nix threw the first of his three interceptions on the day. That play gave South Carolina a short field of only 29 yards and the break they needed to get into the game. Auburn’s first turnover of the day is not where they lost the game, but it is where the game became a real contest.

Over the next three quarters, South Carolina found answers and made plays, while Auburn was often frustrated and confounded. Today we look at three numbers, two notes and one quote that provide a closer look into Auburn’s 30-22 loss at South Carolina.

828

Three numbers

3
Auburn turned the ball over three times against South Carolina. There are many things that go into wins and losses, but giving the ball way multiple times (especially in your own territory) is the most surefire way to lose. Once again, it is more complicated than just turnovers, but Auburn has a negative turnover margin in two games and has lost them both.

Some teams are great enough overall or explosive enough on offense to overcome a few turnovers, but Auburn is not one of those groups right now. If the Tigers are going to win over their last six games this season, they must protect the football.

40% vs 100%
When in the redzone, Auburn scored touchdowns on two of its five opportunities while allowing South Carolina to score four touchdowns on all four of its chances. For all of the talk about turnovers, this was as big of an issue for Auburn against South Carolina. Auburn was forced to kick field goals three times in the redzone, while the Tigers defense conceded touchdowns to the opponent every time.

For Auburn to win more games, the Tigers’ offense must score touchdowns more regularly when getting near the goalline. On the other side of the ball, the Auburn defense has allowed nine touchdowns in 12 redzone attempts over the last three games combined. Both units must improve in this critical area to win football games in the SEC.

13
Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain was all over the field against the Gamecocks and finished the game with 13 tackles. McClain didn’t have a perfect performance, but he was certainly a bright spot for the Tigers in a disappointing loss. The Auburn linebacker may start a given play aligned in different spots, but when the whistle blows at the end of a down McClain is always in the same place — tackling the ball carrier or very nearby.

McClain, who exhibits determination, athleticism and aggression every game, now has three consecutive games with at least 10 tackles.

Two notes

Clock management
Auburn’s offense has been a mess at the end of each of the last two games. The Tigers were fortunate that last week’s intentional grounding/backward spike fiasco did not cost them the game. Even before the penalty, it is a fair question to ask why the offense was spiking the ball with 28 seconds left if they intended to kick the field goal. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to let the clock run down and spike the ball with only a few seconds left so that Arkansas would not have an opportunity to get the ball back?

Similarly, Auburn’s final drive with the Tigers trailing by eight points against the Gamecocks ended with quarterback Bo Nix being tackled short of the first down marker as time expired. There are a number of things on the last possession that could have been done better, but the key mistake was failing to throw the ball into the endzone on the last play. Nix must give his receivers a chance to make a play as it was clear he was not going to be able to rush for a touchdown.

Auburn is not a team capable of blowing out many of the opponents on its schedule, so it is vital that the Tigers’ offense improve in late game and high leverage spots moving forward.

Going off-script

Auburn opened up the game against South Carolina with a clear strategy of spreading the ball around to Tiger backs and receivers on quick throws, screens and off of run/pass option. Bo Nix completed passes to seven different receivers in the first quarter alone. Everything seemed to be going smoothly as Auburn opened up the contest “on script.” That simply means that coaches often have 10/12/15 plays that are pre-selected and practiced that will be called in sequence to begin the game.

The Tigers’ offense managed t0 score on both drives where the script was in play, but only managed three scores on the next 10 possessions. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris must adapt better as the game goes on to generate more points for the Auburn offense.

One quote

“Proud of our guys fighting to the end.” — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s opening remarks following 30-22 loss to South Carolina
Coach Malzahn chose to look at the positives (as much as possible) in the postgame press conference following the game against South Carolina. He did not rip his players, call out individual failures or assign blame to officials.

However, players giving good effort in a closely contested SEC game is the bare minimum expectation. Anything less than that is completely unacceptable. Gus Malzahn knows that and is usually just not that interested in discussing anything of substance with the media. Great fight and effort from Auburn football players is expected. It is up to this team and coaching staff to drastically improve in execution and production.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

2 weeks ago

The World Games 2022 adds three to board of directors

(The World Games/Contributed)

The World Games 2022 announced three additions to its board of directors – Birmingham executives Pamela Cook, Mark Ingram and Tad Snider.

“All three of these individuals represent excellent additions to our board of directors,” said Jonathan Porter, chairman of the board for the World Games 2022. “Each of them brings a valuable perspective, unique experience and outstanding reputation to our team, so we’re excited to be working with them.”

Cook, Ingram and Snider join the existing 15-person board, whose members meet quarterly and participate on planning subcommittees, providing leadership and vision to the Birmingham Organizing Committee in the planning and execution of the World Games 2022.

566

Cook, the director of multicultural marketing and community affairs for Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, was hired at Coca-Cola in 2015 as media and promotions manager, coordinating advertising to support pillar programs in the community. She oversaw the execution of market promotions that supported sponsored events for Coca-Cola, including the Magic City Classic. She was eventually promoted, becoming Coca-Cola’s first Black female director of multicultural marketing and community affairs.

Outside of work, Cook serves in leadership or board positions with a number of organizations, including the Alabama Beverage Association; United Negro College Fund (UNCF); Red Mountain Theatre Company; Lifeskills Foundation; Lawson State Community College Barbering and Cosmetology Board; Workshops Inc.; Coca-Cola HBCU Pay It Forward Internship Program; Omicron Omega Chapter; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; YWCA Central Alabama; and the Black Women’s Health Imperative Marketing advisory board.

“I’m thrilled to represent Coca-Cola Bottling Company United as we prepare for the gathering of world-class athletes in Birmingham for the World Games,” Cook said. “I’m looking forward to serving alongside the entire team, and I’m ready to get started.”

Ingram is in his sixth year as athletic director at UAB. During his tenure overseeing Blazers athletics, the department has raised more than $100 million in cash and pledges, completed the design and construction of a $22.5 million football practice facility and helped obtain approval for Protective Stadium, the future home of UAB football.

Prior to arriving in Birmingham, Ingram was associate vice president/executive senior associate athletics director at Temple, senior associate athletic director at the University of Tennessee, and assistant athletics director for development at the University of Georgia and the University of Missouri.

“I am so grateful to have been asked to join the World Games board of directors,” said Ingram. “This is a historic, once-in-a-lifetime event for our city, and being a part of something that exemplifies the pinnacle of sport is a great honor for me personally.”

Snider, a Birmingham native, joins the board while serving as the executive director and CEO of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC), a role he took on in 2010 after more than 15 years with the BJCC.

During his tenure as CEO, the BJCC has been operated as one of the most diverse convention, meeting, performing arts, entertainment, office and retail center operations in the country.

“I’m tremendously excited to be joining the World Games board of directors,” Snider said. “The BJCC has been involved in the planning and preparation for the World Games for some time now, and with our venues set to be involved in a number of events and activities, we look forward to playing our role in helping the World Games be a positive statement about our great city on a world stage. The opportunity to feature all that is great about Birmingham to the world is a truly special opportunity to be a part of.”

All three of the new board members were unanimously approved by the current board of directors and will participate in the meeting of the World Games board of directors on Oct. 14.

“We are excited and grateful to add this impressive trio to the World Games family,” said CEO Nick Sellers. “They have each made a sizable impact on Birmingham and have a passion for this community that they are eager to share with the world.”

The World Games 2022 Birmingham will take place July 7-17 and will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact for the city.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

and 2 weeks ago

College football power rankings: Bama flexes its muscle

(YHN)

One team has solidified its position above all the rest: The Alabama Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban’s squad has been seated at the top of Yellowhammer’s college football power rankings for several weeks. Cruising past No. 3 Georgia, the Tide own the best win of any team this season, and are now seeing the rest of the nation come around to Alabama’s position as the best team in the country.

Here is what our experts had to say about this week’s rankings.

177

 

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. BYU
6. Notre Dame
7. Texas A&M
8. Penn State

The lowdown: Alabama looks like they are going to score 40 points in every game. Period. Mac Jones is not a downgrade from Tua Tagovailoa, and each of the other 10 offensive starters will be NFL players. Clemson’s combination of Dabo Swinney, Trevor Lawrence and defensive coordinator Brent Venables makes them the only team I have seen that could beat them. Once Ohio State begins its season this week we will see if the Buckeyes can join that group.

 

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. Oklahoma State
7. Penn State
8. Cincinnati

The lowdown: The Alabama-Georgia matchup was a national championship-caliber game, as both teams were studded with five stars and first-round draft choices. Alabama was the stronger team down the stretch; they finally turned on their full-throttle defense in the second half. Alabama stays number one in my rankings even though Clemson put on a high-scoring show yesterday. I bumped Georgia to spot number four because of their loss to the Tide.

2 weeks ago

Nix’s three turnovers cause Auburn’s loss; Malzahn promises the team will improve

(Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Auburn started off strongly against South Carolina, but the offense and defense both sputtered out in the second half.

The Tigers lost 30-22 to the Gamecocks after going up 9-0 early in the game. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn started his post-game press conference by saying, “It was a disappointing loss, but I am proud of our guys fighting until the end.”

Classic Malzahn statement.

The offense started out nicely in the first quarter by finally throwing intermediate passes and balancing the offense just as promised from a Chad Morris offense. Malzahn touched on the offensive balance saying, “If you look at the stat sheet, we wanted to be balanced and for the most part we were. I think we were 209 yards rushing and 272 [passing].”

664

Accomplishing these things starts up front with the offensive line. Auburn’s line has been struggling this year and has been called out on it multiple times. However, when asked about the line play this week, Malzahn said, “I think while we were mixing in the run and the pass I thought our guys did a solid job. We had five guys, and we kept five guys out there… I think now you’ll see them grow and improve.”

Offensive balance and production was excellent for the Tigers early, and caused them to get out to an early lead. However, they were unable to pull out the win due to costly turnovers on offense.

“I think, like I said, the big thing was the three turnovers leading to 21 points,” Malzahn said in reference to what went wrong on offense. He then discussed how the three interceptions thrown by Bo Nix affected the game, saying, “I think for the most part they were short fields, one of them was from the eight-yard line, so that made it tough on [the defense].”

Nix’s trio of interceptions were the story of Auburn’s loss. Three of South Carolina’s four touchdowns came after an interception thrown by Nix.

When asked about the two turnovers in the first half that changed the game’s momentum, Malzahn said, “I don’t think we punted in the first half, so the turnovers were tough, but still we were still in pretty good shape coming out of halftime.”

Malzahn pointed out, “We got the ball coming out, we had the lead, and we went down and put three points on the board which I thought was big.”

Everything was going great for the Tiger defense before the interceptions began. They had only allowed the Gamecocks to get one first down all game long until the first interception.

On the defensive performance early, Malzahn had this to say about Kevin Steele’s squad, “We got off to a very good start defensively, and some three and outs, and got the ball back to our offense.”

The Auburn defense held South Carolina’s offense to 297 total yards compared to the Tigers’ 481 yards. Linebacker Owen Pappoe even had an interception in the game. Pappoe spoke to the media after the game about the performance on his side of the ball. He said, “I really think we were hurting ourselves with a lot of penalties that we had man, so we’ve got to get that corrected in practice you know, so we can get off the field on third down.”

Third down defense would have been a highlight for the Auburn defense if not for penalties, as Pappoe stated. The Tiger offense also started out strongly on converting third downs but couldn’t keep that trend up through the end of the game.

Receiver Eli Stove spoke to the media after the loss as well, adding some praise to his quarterback even after Nix had a sub-par night. Stove gave a glimpse into the competitive spirit of Nix. While discussing Auburn’s final drive Stove said, “He is a competitor. Like that hurdle he tried to do, that just showed me he wants to win.”

Stove added, “Most quarterbacks won’t do that, they will just run out of bounds or something, but he wanted that first down.”

Stove caught a touchdown from Nix for the second week in a row, and Stove said he didn’t even know that he was that close to the end zone because he was so focused on getting to the middle of the field.

Overall, the Tigers had a rough game, and this was a major setback for the season. However, they have a chance for some redemption against Ole Miss next week. A win in Oxford could gain Auburn some much needed confidence going forward. However, a loss could start to cause disruption in the locker room and might be enough to set Malzahn’s seat fully ablaze.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 weeks ago

South Carolina takes down Auburn, 30-22

(Auburn Football/Twitter)

The flight home from Columbia, SC, to Auburn is going to feel much longer than 65 minutes today. After Auburn jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead (because of a missed two point conversion attempt), the Tigers slowly but surely watched the scoreboard change to as much as an 11 point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Eventually, South Carolina earned a 30-22 victory against Auburn, the second win of the season for the Gamecocks.

Auburn outgained South Carolina 481-297 in total offense yardage. However, out producing the Gamecocks by nearly 200 yards was squandered by Auburn turning the ball over three times. To make matters worse, each of the three interceptions thrown by quarterback Bo Nix gave South Carolina the ball in Auburn territory. South Carolina was able to take advantage of each of Nix’s interceptions and score touchdowns on the ensuing possessions every time. In fact, the Gamecocks had only one touchdown drive that did not originate in Auburn territory via turnover on the day.

762

Similarly, the Tigers’ defense that allowed very little yardage and no points to the Gamecocks in the first quarter, conceded 30 points over the final three quarters. Certainly the defense was not helped by having to defend short fields on multiple possessions, but over the course of the second half especially, South Carolina’s tailback duo of Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick was able to wear down the Tigers to the tune of 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Below we look at a few critical areas that lead to South Carolina’s 30-22 win over Auburn.

Quarterback play

Neither quarterback on the field had a stellar game today. South Carolina’s Collin Hill was not asked to do a lot other than protect the football. Hill did that successfully until late in the third quarter when Auburn defensive back Christian Tutt tipped a pass that was eventually intercepted by linebacker Owen Pappoe. Once that occured, Collin Hill only attempted four more passes the rest of the game. South Carolina was able to run the ball effectively in the second half, so they opted to do so on about 75% of their plays in the third and fourth quarter.

On the other side of the field, a different strategy was implemented. Admittedly, there is no easier place to coach or call plays from than the comfort of your couch. With that being said, Auburn’s decision to call 50 pass plays (47 pass attempts plus a few scrambles on called pass plays) for quarterback Bo Nix was borderline malpractice. It would be enough to question that many pass attempts if your only objection is the fact that the Tigers were averaging about 5.5 yards per carry. However, when you combine that with how uncomfortable Bo Nix was today, it was really a baffling decision.

Nix threw three interceptions today and that is clearly concerning. What may an even bigger problem, though, was that Bo Nix appeared to be rattled even when throwing completions. Every broadcast crew mentions Nix seemingly running from pressure that is often not there — and it’s true. But beyond that, Nix is regularly demonstrably displeased with coaches, other players and himself. Auburn’s coaches must find ways to make Nix more comfortable and get him some easy completions. Bo Nix is talented, smart and a competitor, but he is not Patrick Mahomes. So, it would likely benefit Auburn to adjust its gameplan accordingly.

Shi Smith shines

South Carolina receiver Shi Smith did not sneak up on Auburn. He was the Gamecocks’ leading receiver entering the game and is one of South Carolina’s most important players. That makes what Smith did today even more impressive. Undoubtedly, a big part of Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s gameplan was to limit Shi Smith. For most of the day Auburn’s defense was successful at limiting big plays from Smith, but two of his eight receptions were extremely difficult and critically important.

Smith came out on top in two different one-on-one battles with Auburn corners that swung the game in South Carolina’s favor. With 6:31 remaining in the third quarter, the Gamecocks’ standout outjumped an Auburn defender for a 10-yard touchdown reception that tied the game. Then on a critical third down with just under 14 minutes remaining in the game, Smith made a circus catch for a 32-yard reception that led to a field goal for the Gamecocks. That field goal gave South Carolina a 30-19 lead and really put the Gamecocks in control of the game.

Second half adjustments

In each of the last two weeks, the Auburn Tigers have jumped out to two score leads before their opponent has been able to put any points on the board. Also in the last two weeks, the teams that Auburn has been playing have come back to take the lead in the second half. Last week against Arkansas, Auburn was able to escape with a close and somewhat controversial victory. However, once South Carolina roared back to take the lead in the third quarter today, the Gamecocks did not give it back.

Auburn must find a way to put together strong starts and finishes to games if they are going to win going forward. The first four weeks of the Tigers’ schedule has proven to be a big challenge, and it is not going to get any easier. Auburn must develop the mental toughness to persevere through difficult stretches of games and the season at-large if they hope to compete this year.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

2 weeks ago

False positive confirmed: Saban to coach from sideline against Georgia after clearing SEC protocols

(ESPN/Twitter)

It has officially been determined that University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban experienced a “false positive” test result for COVID-19 earlier this week and thus will be able to coach from the sideline at Bryant-Denny Stadium when the No. 2 Crimson Tide face No. 3 Georgia on Saturday night.

Saban’s initial positive test result came Wednesday through an outside lab not utilized by the Southeastern Conference (SEC) for its mandatory testing protocols; the University of Alabama Athletics Department has been using this outside lab to supplement the mandatory testing, going above and beyond to keep its student-athletes and staff safe.

The legendary coach was asymptomatic at the time of that Wednesday result and has remained without symptoms since then. In order to rule out a false positive, Saban took a test through the SEC’s designated lab on Thursday at 7:00 a.m. CT. The result of that test came back negative through the SEC lab. Additionally, Saban took another test at the same time on Thursday through another lab. That test also came back negative.

Saban repeated this step 24 hours later on Friday morning, resulting in two more negative results — one through the SEC appointed lab and the second through a separate outside facility.

468

The SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol requires three consecutive negative tests through the SEC designated lab, each at least 24 hours apart, in order to clear a staff member or student-athlete to return to activity.

Saban cleared this protocol following a Saturday morning negative test result through the SEC’s chosen lab, Tide team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson confirmed in a statement.

“Upon evaluation today, Coach Saban remains completely asymptomatic. To address the potential for a false positive, the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol allows for follow-up testing to clear the individual’s return to activity. That protocol requires three negative PCR tests 24 hours apart,” he outlined.

“Because Coach Saban remained asymptomatic, he received PCR testing at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and today through the SEC appointed lab. Each of those tests were negative and were reported via the SEC’s third-party testing provider to the conference office in Birmingham. Those three negative tests satisfied the SEC protocol for a false positive. Out of an abundance of caution, two additional PCR tests were administered at the same time on Thursday and Friday and were tested by a separate lab. Those tests were also negative,” Dr. Robinson continued.

Saban went above and beyond in clearing the SEC protocol, just as the coach has done through the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been a leader in modeling proper social distancing, mask wearing and hygienic practices, also doing PSAs on the topic.

“Due to the fact that Coach Saban has remained completely symptom-free and had five negative PCR tests, split between two separate labs, the initial test from Wednesday is considered a false positive under the SEC protocols,” Dr. Robinson concluded. “Again, that initial positive result came from an outside lab we’ve used to supplement the SEC mandated testing. We have been in constant communication with the conference office throughout this process to ensure compliance with all applicable protocols. In accordance with the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol and with the approval of The University of Alabama System Health and Safety Task Force, Coach Saban is medically cleared to safely return to activity effective immediately.”

Saban appeared on ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday morning to discuss the game versus Georgia, which kicks off at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS.

Watch his interview with UA alumnus Rece Davis:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 weeks ago

Auburn has something to prove; Can Stetson Bennett finish off the Tide defense?

(Pixabay, YHN)

Serving as an assistant for Nick Saban has proven to be a lucrative move for a lot of coaches.

Five of his former assistants now hold head coaching positions in the SEC. Their average salary this season is $5.33 million. Add in Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, who makes a little over $1 million this year, and it is easy to see why Butch Jones is content to tote Gatorade on the Tide sideline for a while.

While they have all collected big checks after working in Saban’s building, one thing none have done is beat the man. The collective apprentice versus teacher streak sits at 0-21.

Could this finally be the week?

Here are the picks:

415

THE BASICS

No. 15 Auburn (-2.5) at South Carolina: The statement was made this week that “Auburn should not be ranked.” Fair point. Which is why South Carolina is a trendy mild upset pick this week. Gus Malzahn knows his offensive line needs to play better. Will Muschamp and his $4.6 million is on that list of former Saban assistants, so there is a lot of pressure on him in Columbia, too.

The pick: Auburn 33, South Carolina 27

No. 3 Georgia at No. 2 Alabama (-4.5): There was a lot of discussion this week about the Tide defense being on the ropes already. However, it might be a bit hasty to draw conclusions from the game against Ole Miss. It was Lane Kiffin’s Super Bowl; the type of game where the former Saban assistant pulled out every trick in his bag to become the first apprentice to put a win on the board. On the Georgia sideline will stand Stetson Bennett, the former fourth-string quarterback, who has become both a revelation and a sensation early in the 2020 season. Will Bennett be able to weather a game plan from the old defensive wizard the likes of which he has never seen before?

The pick: Alabama 24, Georgia 16

BUYER BEWARE

Ole Miss (-1.5) at Arkansas: Kiffin already has the Rebels clicking on all cylinders in only his first season. Quarterback Matt Corral is a dynamic playmaker who has put up some gaudy offensive stats. Ole Miss is second in the nation in total offense. Ole Miss gave Alabama everything they could handle last weekend and nearly knocked off the mighty conference favorites. It is doubtful the Lane Train is even equipped with breaks.

The pick: Arkansas 44, Ole Miss 27

No. 1 Clemson (-27) at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech is facing a big number at home against the perpetually most over-hyped team in college football. Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins, who served one season as director of player personnel for Saban at Alabama, has laid a solid foundation with playmaker Jeff Sims at quarterback.

The pick: Clemson 36, Georgia Tech 17

BONUS

Boston College at No. 23 Virginia Tech (-13): Boston College is another trendy upset pick. Lost in the fact that Virginia Tech gave up 56 points to a talented North Carolina team last week is the 45 points the Hokies put up on the road.

The pick: Virginia Tech 40, Boston College 20

Last week: 4-1 straight up; 3-2 ATS
Season: 9-1 straight up; 6-4 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. South Carolina edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

Auburn travels to Columbia, South Carolina, today looking for its third win of the season. The Tigers will face off against the Gamecocks, who are coached by two-time Auburn assistant coach Will Muschamp. South Carolina lost to Top 25 teams in each of its first two contests, before blasting Vanderbilt 41-7 in Week 3 to earn their first win of the year.

The Gamecocks’ victory over Vanderbilt last week was critical for South Carolina to alleviate some pressure on Will Muschamp and his coaching staff. It also gave the players needed confidence moving forward. This matchup is huge for both teams, as a loss for either will make the season almost impossible to salvage based on the programs’ preseason expectations.

557

Today, we look at three key areas that will impact who comes away victorious in this Week 4 contest between Auburn and South Carolina.

Third down defense
Third down defense is an area that Auburn has really struggled this year. Through two games, the Tigers were last in the SEC at stopping opposing offenses on third down. Following last week’s win against Arkansas, Auburn’s defense has moved up to 12th out of 14 SEC teams in third down defense. However, that clearly is not a stellar mark and is an area Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele wants to improve.

On the other side of the field, the Gamecocks defense currently ranks first in the conference, allowing opponents to successfully convert on third down chances less than 20% of the time. South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson (former Auburn defensive back under coach Tommy Tuberville) has put together a defensive unit that has forced two different opponents to successfully convert on only one out of 11 third down attempts (Tennessee and Vanderbilt).

If one of these defensive units is able to consistently force the opposing offenses into third down situations, get stops and force punts, then it will be a big advantage for that squad.

Pass rush
Both of these defenses have been around league average in generating quarterback sacks through the first few weeks. Auburn and South Carolina’s defenses have amassed six and seven sacks, respectively. Even though neither team has set the world on fire in this category to this point, pass rush figures to be critical in today’s outcome.

South Carolina’s pass rush is led by junior defensive lineman Kingsley Enagbare, who has three quarterback sacks on the year. In addition to generating three sacks, Enagbare has also forced two fumbles in the first three games of the season. It will be important for an Auburn offensive line that has struggled in pass protection to have a good plan for dealing with Enagbare and his Gamecock teammates on the defensive front.

Auburn’s defense has struggled to generate much pressure on opposing quarterbacks without blitzing in the first three matchups of the season. This week the Tigers’ defense gets an opportunity to go against an offensive line that has given up more sacks than any other group in the conference so far. Coach Kevin Steele’s group must take advantage of this South Carolina weakness and get Gamecocks’ quarterback Collin Hill to the ground early and often.

Explosive offensive plays
The offenses in this game have both struggled to consistently move the ball against their opponents (when not playing Vanderbilt). Both the Gamecocks and Tigers rank in the bottom half of the conference in total offense and yards per play. Those numbers indicate that for either offense to light up the scoreboard, they will likely need to generate a number of big yardage plays.

The only issue is that both of these offenses also rank in the bottom half of the conference in creating big plays. So, if one of these offensive units is able to shake that pattern and connect on deep shots in the passing game or breakaway on a long run or two, then they will put their team in a position to win a much needed SEC game.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

2 weeks ago

Saban tests negative for coronavirus; Possibility of being on sidelines for Georgia open

Nick Saban leads his team out of tunnel in 2018 (ESPN/YouTube)

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban received a negative result on a coronavirus test he took Thursday, according to an announcement from the University of Alabama on Friday.

Saban would require three negative tests 24 hours apart to meet the SEC protocols and take his place on the sidelines for Saturday’s much-anticipated game against the Georgia Bulldogs.

The university also noted that the famed coach remains asymptomatic and isolated in his home, as he has been since first receiving a positive test result on Wednesday.

162

Saban’s first positive result came from an outside lab that Alabama was using in addition to the SEC-mandated testing, according to the university’s Friday afternoon announcement.

“Should he have three negative PCR tests through the SEC appointed lab, each 24 hours apart, the initial test would be considered a false positive pursuant to SEC protocols and he would be allowed to return,” advised Jeff Allen, director of Sports Medicine for the Crimson Tide, in a statement.

A PCR test is the gold standard of coronavirus detection that uses a molecular reaction to determine if the virus is present in a human.

Saban is now presumably awaiting the results from a PCR test administered sometime on Friday, and would need to take and get the results of another on Saturday before being cleared to be on the sidelines.

Alabama and Georgia play Saturday at 7:00 p.m. CT on CBS.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 weeks ago

Update: Saban remains asymptomatic, in self-isolation

(@AlabamaFTBL/Twitter)

News of college football’s top coach testing positive for COVID-19 shook the sport on Wednesday. One day later, University of Alabama Athletics Department officials provided an update on his health.

“Coach Saban was evaluated by our team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson today,” said Jeff Allen, associate athletics director for Sports Medicine, in a statement. “Coach remains asymptomatic at this point and is doing fine. He is continuing to self-isolate and will remain in the SEC testing protocol while being evaluated daily.”

Saban confirmed on Wednesday that he will continue to drive game week preparation remotely.

“I can do absolutely everything here that I do,” he stated. “I will have the same exact routine.”

172

He cited his participation in Wednesday’s practice, via phone and video, which occasionally involved him directing that the team repeat plays in the absence of execution.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will assume on-field head coaching duties while not delegating play calling to anyone else, according to Saban.

“He’s done a really good job of that,” Saban said of Sarkisian. “We’re not going to make those kind of changes. We have a very capable staff and those guys make good game day decisions. I just kind of monitor what they do and make sure we’re staying on the rails. I think we can get that done even if I am not available, which is not for certain I hope, but it is what it is.”

Over seven seasons as a head coach at Washington and then USC, Sarkisian compiled a 46-35 record.

Sarkisian currently guides an offense which leads the nation in scoring and stands third in total production.

The Crimson Tide are presently listed as a 4.5-point favorite over the visiting Georgia Bulldogs in Saturday’s SEC showdown.

2 weeks ago

This weekend’s college football TV schedule

(Pixabay, YHN)

For a printable version, click here. Pro tip: Save the image below to your phone for quick and easy access all weekend.

(Note: All times are Central)

52

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @hayden_crigler.

2 weeks ago

SEC head coaches who worked under Saban all have salaries over the FBS average

(SEC/Facebook, YHN)

Legendary University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban is one of the greatest head coaches of all time in the college ranks, and could eventually go down as the greatest. Working alongside him is a top goal of any up and coming assistant coach.

The amount of knowledge that can be bestowed upon an assistant from Saban is unlike any other coach in the country. To learn how to game plan, recruit, conduct practices, etc. are all valuable traits to learn if an assistant wants to move on and become a great head coach one day.

However, there is another reason to work for Saban that is backed by statistics that were recently released from USA Today — money. To put it humbly, Saban’s coaching tree is very green.

It seems like the monetary influence that comes from working for the greatest coach reflects who that assistant learned from. Five former assistants that are current SEC college football head coaches all make more than the FBS head coach average annual salary of $2.67 million. Let’s look into a few of their careers with Saban and after.

654

Jimbo Fisher: Texas A&M, Salary – $7.5 million

Fisher was the offensive coordinator under Saban all four years at LSU. Fisher later went on to be the head coach at Florida State from 2010 to 2017. He led the Seminoles to an 82-23 record during his eight years in Tallahassee. The .783 winning percentage Fisher achieved is the highest of any head coach in Florida State history.

He also took the Noles to three ACC championships, four AP Poll top-10 finishes, and four bowl game wins. His greatest achievement while in Tallahassee was leading the Seminoles to winning the 2013 BCS National Championship.

Fisher now works in the SEC once again in his third year as the head coach at Texas A&M.

Kirby Smart: Georgia, Salary- 6.8 million

Smart was first an assistant to Saban at LSU in 2004 as a defensive backs coach. However, he is most well-known for working as Defensive Coordinator at Alabama under Saban from 2009 to 2015. He worked closely with Saban to build one of the most dominant defenses in the SEC and all of college football.

During his time at Bama he helped the Tide win multiple national championships as DC before becoming head coach at Georgia, his Alma Mater, in 2016. Smart is in his fifth season as Georgia’s head coach. In those five years he has led the Bulldogs to two SEC championship appearances, and a victory in the 2017 SEC championship. After the 2017 SEC championship victory, he would go on to lose in the national championship to Saban and Alabama.

Will Muschamp: South Carolina, Salary – $4.6 million

Muschamp coached under Saban at LSU for five years, four of those as defensive coordinator. Like any defensive coordinator working under Saban, he learned a lot and began to perfect his craft. He later became the defensive coordinator at Auburn for two years, before holding the same position at Texas from 2008 to 2010.

After a stop in Texas, Muschamp became head coach for the Florida Gators from 2011 to 2014 going a lackluster 28-21 in his four seasons in Gainesville. He went back to Auburn as defensive coordinator for the 2015 season before landing a new head coaching job at South Carolina. He is now in his fifth season as the head coach of the Gamecocks.

Jeremy Pruitt: Tennessee, Salary – $3.8 million

Pruitt is one of the more recent Saban assistants, serving as defensive coordinator at Alabama from 2016 to 2017. He worked with Saban to help Bama win the 2017 national championship game. After two years as defensive coordinator at Alabama, Pruitt was thought ready to be an SEC head coach.

Pruitt then got hired as head coach for the Tennessee Volunteers in 2018 and is now in his third year as head coach. In his time at Tennessee, the Vols have a 15-13 record, with signs of improvement on the horizons.

Lane Kiffin: Ole Miss, Salary – $3.9 million

Kiffin is another recent Saban assistant, and one of the more interesting coaches in the league. Kiffin was brought on as offensive coordinator for the Tide in 2014 and stayed until 2016. He brought a new offensive philosophy to Tuscaloosa and helped Saban win a national championship in 2015.

Later, Kiffin landed a head coaching job at Florida Atlantic for three years where his Owls won two Conference USA championships. After FAU, he became a head coach in the SEC again at Ole Miss. This is his first year in Oxford, and he is currently 1-2 on the season.

All of these coaches have gone on to achieve great things and great pay after working for Saban, thus proving how coveted a position under Saban can be for any assistant wanting to climb the ranks of college coaching. However, none have been able to defeat their former boss. Saban is currently 21-0 against his former assistants.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.