1 month ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. Kentucky edition

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has done a really nice job of turning the Wildcats into a competitive football program at a place where basketball is king. Especially in Stoops’ two most recent seasons, Kentucky has exceeded expectations that anyone outside of Lexington would have had for the team.

In 2018, the Wildcats managed to win 10 games, including victories over Florida and Penn State. Last season, Kentucky only managed eight wins, but the circumstances that the team overcame to earn those victories make the 2019 campaign quite remarkable. By the end of the fifth game last year, the top three quarterbacks on Kentucky’s depth chart were injured and unable to play. So, offensive coordinator (and former Auburn assistant) Eddie Gran completely remade the offense around wide receiver Lynn Bowden, Jr.

Kentucky would go on to win six of their last eight contests while essentially running the wildcat offense the entire time. Bowden has moved on to the NFL, but many of the players responsible for the strong finish to 2019 return in 2020 with the expectation of continuing that success.

Today, we look at three things that are likely to determine the outcome of the game between Auburn and Kentucky on Saturday.

The return of Kentucky QB Terry Wilson
Terry Wilson in 2018 led the Wildcats to their first 10-win season since 1977. That year, he was an effective dual-threat quarterback compiling about 2,300 yards and 15 TDs combined passing and rushing as a sophomore. Coming into 2019, the Wildcats expected big things from their returning starter, but he was unable to have much of an impact on the field because of a torn patellar tendon he suffered in the second game of the year.

Saturday morning in Jordan Hare Stadium is the first time that Wilson will return to game action since that injury versus Eastern Kentucky a little over 380 days ago. One would expect there to be a little bit of rust to knock off and maybe a slight uneasiness that often comes with testing a knee that has recently been injured. Wilson has proven to be a capable quarterback in the past, but how quickly he can adjust back to game speed against a talented Auburn defense is going to be a key factor in Kentucky’s success.

It would be unlikely that Kentucky would ask Wilson to throw the ball more than 30 times against Auburn, even if he was not coming off a major injury. However, since Wilson is returning from injury, you should expect Kentucky to lean on their experienced offensive line (four returning starters) and stable of returning running backs to try to alleviate the pressure of carrying the bulk of offensive production. Kentucky may not ask Wilson to throw it 40 times or attempt 20 rushes, but if the Wildcats are going to have success on offense, Terry Wilson must make clutch plays with his arm and legs on Saturday.

Auburn and the run game
The last time the Tigers took the field it was ugly. The final score says that Auburn lost by seven, but the game was not that close. Minnesota rushed for 215 yards while holding Auburn to only 56 on the ground. There have been a number of suggestions amongst Auburn fans that there was a lack of focus or care about the game. True or not, t is clear that another performance anywhere near that rushing disparity against Kentucky would be disastrous.

Kentucky expressed a good deal of confidence this week that they believe a win in Jordan-Hare is possible. Much of the belief comes from a talented and experienced offensive line that the Wildcats return. The second half of last season, Kentucky went to an overwhelmingly run-heavy offense out of necessity, but gained a great deal of confidence in that aspect of the game along the way.

Kentucky’s returning experience on the offensive line and three tailbacks who all gained at least 500 yards and scored six touchdowns each combined with Auburn losing defensive standouts Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson means that the Tiger defense must be prepared to be tested early and often on the ground.

Conversely, Auburn will start four new players on its offensive line this week. It may be that this new group is a bunch of road graders ready to flatten whatever defense that stands in its way, but expect them to have to prove it before Kentucky sells out to stop the run on defense.

Much of the talk about Auburn’s offense this offseason has been about the passing game (guilty), but the Tigers must create more consistent push in the ground attack this fall to be a great offense. Auburn’s offense needs more run plays that produce big gains than it has gotten in the last two seasons particularly. If opponents like Kentucky have a difficult time slowing down Auburn’s ground game, then that should help open great windows for Bo Nix to attack in the passing game as well.

The punters

Offenses always want to score and defenses always want to force turnovers. However, when those things don’t happen, the punt team usually takes the field. How good or bad a team’s punter is usually gets overlooked until it is very obvious one way or another. This week, Auburn fans will see last season’s Ray Guy Award winner (the best punter in college football) Max Duffy for the Kentucky Wildcats.

Auburn on the other hand may very well have two different players get a chance to punt as Aidan Marshall and Oscar Chapman are both listed as starters on the depth chart. Marshall took last season off from football and Chapman was an Australian Rules Football player who will make his debut this week.

This is a position where Kentucky likely has a huge advantage on Saturday. Duffy has proven the ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory, boom moonshot kicks and handle the pressure of the SEC. Even if the Tigers’ punters can’t match Duffy’s production on Saturday, it is key that they not make big mistakes like mishandle snaps or badly mis-hit kicks in crucial spots.

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

10 hours ago

Steve Flowers: Why a vote for Doug Jones is a vote against the state of Alabama

Our 2020 presidential election is less than two weeks away. We Americans will either elect Republican Donald Trump for another four-year term or Democrat Joe Biden.

In Alabama, we will either elect Republican Tommy Tuberville or Democrat Doug Jones for six-years to serve with our iconic senior Senator Richard Shelby. The winner will be elected to a six-year term in this august body.

Several of you took issue with my statement last week that a vote for the liberal Democrat Doug Jones is a vote against Richard Shelby and the State of Alabama. Allow me to clarify and explain to you as simply as I can why that is true and why I reiterate that declaration.

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The United States Senate is steeped in and governed by time-honored rules and traditions. The most revered and sacred shrine is the vestige of seniority. The rule of seniority is paramount. The longer you serve in the Senate the more powerful you become. Some become more powerful than others. Richard Shelby has become the most powerful and consequential U.S. Senator to have represented our state in Alabama history.

In my 2015 book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories,” I have a chapter titled, “Alabama’s Three Greatest Senators.” They are Lister Hill, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.

Senator Lister Hill was an austere, aristocratic gentleman who was renowned for health care. He was the author of the famous Hill-Burton Act and the father of the renowned UAB Medical Center. He served 30-years in the U.S. Senate.

Senator John Sparkman served in the U.S. Senate for 32-years. He was from Huntsville and is credited with being the father of Redstone Arsenal.

If I were writing that chapter today, Senator Richard Shelby would be alone as Alabama’s most consequential, powerful senator in our state’s history. He is in a league of his own. During his 34-year career in the Senate, Shelby has become renowned as the bearer of good tidings and federal dollars to the Heart of Dixie. If Lister Hill was the father of UAB and John Sparkman the father of Redstone Arsenal, then Richard Shelby can very aptly be referred to as the grandfather as well as great uncle to these two premier Alabama institutions. Richard Shelby is the reason UAB and Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center are Alabama’s most prestigious as well as Alabama’s two largest employers.

Huntsville has become Alabama’s fastest-growing and most prosperous city and one of America’s brightest high-tech destination locations. The City of Huntsville is soon to become the second home of the FBI. The state-of-the-art Huntsville FBI cybersecurity headquarters will employ over 2,000 very highly paid individuals. This coup for Alabama is due to one person – our senior Senator Richard Shelby.

It is not just Huntsville and Birmingham that have benefitted from Shelby’s prowess and power, it is the entire state. Every corner of the state can point to a Shelby generated road, building, industry, or military installation.

You might be asking, how has Shelby accomplished so much for our state? It is simple. It is federal dollars. Then you might ask, how does Shelby bring so many federal dollars to Alabama? It is simple. He is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He appropriates the United States budget, or in other words, he controls the federal checkbook.

In addition to being chairman of Appropriations, Senator Shelby is chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. If you do not think that is invaluable to Alabama, you best think again. There is no state in the nation that benefits more through defense preparedness and dollars in the United States than the good ole Heart of Dixie.

Under the Rules of the Senate, the political party that has the majority of members presides and makes the rules. More importantly, for Alabama, the majority party gets all the committee chairmanships. Our Senior Senator Richard Shelby is a Republican. Currently, Republicans have a slim 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. There are three Republican incumbent senators in Arizona, Colorado and Maine, who are in serious jeopardy of losing. If the Republicans lose these three and one more, then Senator Shelby loses the chairmanship of appropriations and Alabama loses all of its power in Washington. Suppose your vote for Doug Jones, a liberal, national, California Democrat, is the deciding vote that puts the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and puts Richard Shelby and Alabama out to pasture.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

11 hours ago

VIDEO: Democrats believe racism is on the ballot, Biden’s problems grow at the worst time, John Merrill addresses voting issues and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Why are some Alabama Democrats saying “racism is on the ballot” this year, and does that help or hurt them electorally?

— Have the issues former Vice President Joe Biden is currently having with his son changed the trajectory of the campaign?

— Does complaining about an opponent not debating actually win over any voters less than two weeks from an election?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Secretary of State John Merrill to discuss the latest Supreme Court ruling about voting in Alabama and the absentee voting currently taking place.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at those who think judges should be deciding the rules for voting and not the legislators who were elected to do just that.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

13 hours ago

Senate advances Barrett nomination — Shelby votes ‘aye,’ Jones ‘no’

The U.S. Senate on Sunday voted 51-48 to invoke cloture on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

This procedural vote sets up a final vote on Barrett’s confirmation, which is expected to come on Monday. Sunday’s vote was completed shortly before 12:30 p.m. CT.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) voted in the affirmative on invoking cloture, while U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) voted “no.”

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This comes after the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Thursday unanimously voted to favorably report Barrett’s nomination.

Shelby met with Barrett in recent weeks; afterwards, Alabama’s senior senator emphasized his strong support for the nominee.

“After speaking with Judge Barrett, I am confident that she is the right choice to serve on the Supreme Court,” stated Shelby at the time.

“Judge Barrett is exceptionally qualified for this role and maintains strong conservative values and a deep commitment to our Constitution. I have no doubt that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court,” continued the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Barrett currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She clerked for the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, as well as Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Before and while serving on the federal bench, she was a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School.

“I look forward to supporting Judge Barrett’s nomination to serve on our nation’s highest court, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Shelby concluded.

In stark contrast, Jones did not meet with Barrett and admitted that he did not even watch any of her confirmation hearing.

Alabama’s junior senator said at the time, “I have not watched the hearing. I’m in the middle of a campaign. I have not watched the hearings, and I left D.C. when we were there.”

Jones missed all Senate roll call votes Monday, Thursday and Friday of this past week. In total, he was absent from the Senate for 67% of the chamber’s votes during the week. For the votes he did take, Jones supported Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) position all but one time (86%).

Jones last Thursday did have time during business hours to instead campaign for the Biden-Harris ticket virtually in Ohio. This past week, Jones also fundraised for Biden’s campaign, and on Friday Jones campaigned with the cast of the TV show “Will & Grace.”

Last summer, Jones committed to opposing any hypothetical SCOTUS nominee during the final year of President Donald Trump’s current term. Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month, Jones announced his opposition to anyone Trump would nominate, regardless of merits.

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

and 14 hours 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.

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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.

14 hours ago

Alabama Power Foundation seeking Classroom Grant applications

The Alabama Power Foundation is now accepting applications for its Classroom Grant Program.

The program focuses on improving and expanding educational opportunities at schools throughout Alabama. This year, the program has expanded to meet additional needs, such as technology support to enhance virtual learning, which has become commonplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grants are available to public elementary, middle and high schools to purchase materials, supplies and other resources to enhance learning in the classroom. Grants can also be used to buy sanitation supplies needed to keep classrooms safe and to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on the coronavirus.

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Funds can also be used to support mental health needs for educators and students.

Nonprofit organizations that work with schools to support these efforts are also eligible to apply. Up to $1,000 is awarded per grant.

“Many organizations, including our schools, face unique challenges this year. Overcoming these obstacles isn’t easy and can weigh heavily on students and educators,” said Tequila Smith, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “We want to find new ways to continue to meet their needs and hope these grants will serve as much-needed support for stability and enrichment in classrooms across Alabama in these difficult times.”

The grants are available to schools in which 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

The grant program will remain open for the remainder of the school year. Grants are awarded to eligible recipients on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds are exhausted.

For more information or to apply, visit https://powerofgood.com/grant/classroom-grants.

Since its creation in 1989 with funds donated by shareholders, the Alabama Power Foundation has supported Alabama communities, educational institutions and nonprofits through more than 20,000 grants and scholarships, using non-ratepayer dollars. Learn more at https://powerofgood.com/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)