Happy Gump Day, folks!
Today is the deep breath before diving into the water, the pause before you leap. Which is to say that news will be scarce today as Alabama begins its fall practice sessions for the 2023 season. We’ll start rolling out our previews today...just like everyone else is doing. The real fireworks begin as Saban has his press conferences, and as #sauces leak development from Fall Camp.
But, hopefully we found a few interesting things that will help get you through the day. Dive in.
Don’t want none, don’t start none
For a coaching staff that has won one road game against bowl teams, this is a remarkable amount of brashness:
Texas special coordinator Jeff Banks was asked what he'll tell his team about playing at Alabama, where he previously coached: "We're just going to play another road game. Just as hard in Kansas and Iowa State as it is going to be in Tuscaloosa. It's just bigger and more people."— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) August 1, 2023
He’s wrong too, for what that’s worth.
Alabama has one of the best home/road performance splits in the country, with home games worth about 6.1 PPG to the Tide — 14th in the country. Texas, meanwhile, has one of the nation’s worst road/home splits — losing over a full touchdown vs. expected performance when they hit the road, just 112th in the nation.
Vaunted Kansas and Iowa State he cites? 53rd and 70th in that performance metric.
He’s also wrong (tacitly) in who does their job the best. Sure, the Horns have great special teams — overall, 12th in the nation: Top 10%. But the Tide finished last season 4th in ST efficiency, and return literally everyone from one of the nation’s best kicking and kick coverage units.
So, we’ll see you back to town, Mr. Banks. Just make sure to leave the stripper and the monkey in Austin...this is a business trip.
Watch List SZN
The rebuilding Tide does not have quite as many early entrants on preseason awards watch lists, but it has a fair number. Here are the players that have received a tip o’ the cap to day:
Jase McClellan, was shortlisted for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s best overall player.
Three players landed on the Outland Trophy watch list, which is given to the best interior lineman: NT Jaheim Oatis, T JC Latham, and G Tyler Booker. I will say, that if Jaheim Oatis rounds into a finalist-type player at the nose, then this defense is going to be absolutely impenetrable.
The quietly awesome Kneeland Hibbett even got in on the action last night, when he was placed on the watchlist for nation’s best long snapper, the Mannelly Award.
Finally, a trio of ‘Bama defenders were placed on the Bronko Nagurski watchlist, given annually to the nation’s most impactful defender. Two of the names won’t surprise you: Cyborg/OLB Dallas Turner and All-Everything CB Kool-Aid McKinstry. But, Malachi Moore was a bit of a surprise, since I don’t think observant Gumps are even convinced he’s going to hang on to his job, and if he does win a starting role, it will a strictly in-the-box sort of safety. But if he wants to morph into the second-coming of Landon Collins in his senior season, be my guest.
RIP PAC 12
Blame this one on Larry Scott. It’s amazing how one disastrous period of bad leadership can literally destroy a conference that had been in exsitence for almost a century. It’s a money-driven matter to the lastest gen of admins, and it is only about the money. Scott never brought it in, and that left the incoming P12 administration stuck with one year to try and undo a decade of damage — and the loss of their premiere product: USC.
The two options they generated simply were insufficient too, one of which including giving schools a cut of new Apple+ subscriptions (never change, west coast). That leaves the less academic-minded Mountain Time schools a tempting offer to take the guaranteed money and solvency of the Big 12, or stick it out on a sinking ship:
Schools with more lucrative television offers — presumed to be Arizona, Arizona State and Utah — have a decision to make: accept an invitation from the Big 12 or remain with the Pac-12. A decision timeline isn’t clear, but the Arizona Board of Regents, which manages both Arizona and Arizona State, discussed the matter in private during an executive session on Tuesday afternoon — a sign of the seriousness of the situation.
One source described the presented TV deal as not suitable enough to keep all three within the league. After a year of TV negotiations — with miscalculations and missteps along the way — could the deal somehow get better over a matter of days?
“If we had a good deal, we’d have presented it earlier,” says one league source.
And it almost certainly will destroy the P12, as well. The Mountain Time schools practically have to jump, since the Apple TV model is not one that incentivizes their participation. Do you take maybe $20-$25 million a year? Or do you snatch the guaranteed 50% boost that comes with the $31 million the Big 12 is offering?
Where once the Pac-12 thought it could get 70-plus percent of what the Big Ten and SEC are making ($50-million per school, per year minimum), it is now wondering if there will even be a Pac-12 in any recognizable fashion. The Apple deal might only make $20-25 million per school.
Arizona, Arizona State and Utah could easily follow Colorado’s lead and bolt to the Big 12 (or Big 16 by then) for the 2024 season and beyond. The Big 12 is offering about $31 million per year.
Left behind would be a six-school contingent — Cal and Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, Washington and Washington State. Each will look for something better. Washington and Oregon will renew their begging to the Big Ten. They might even consider the ACC — and yes, the Atlantic Coast Conference partnering with the Pacific Northwest is certainly a geography joke.
I think we know what’s going to happen.
And none fo this had to happen. For years Colorado, among others, had been warning the P12 brass that it was playing a dangerous game, and practically begging for leadership.
Colorado spoke loud and clear that at least it perceives the Pac-12 will not be anywhere near the $31.7 million the Big 12 is getting in its new media rights contract from Fox and ESPN.
The Pac-12’s failings bear repeating: The league likely had its choice of Big 12 schools — twice. In 2010, then-commissioner Larry Scott’s bold move to raid the Big 12 of half its teams fell just short. More than a decade later, when Texas and Oklahoma announced they were departing for the SEC in 2021, the opportunity existed to pick the bones of a wounded Big 12.
Instead, the Pac-12 stood pat ... and the Big 12 retooled.
So, the Buffs to the Big 12...again. Does it really help? Is this out of the frying pan and into the fire? Because others aren’t convinced that the Big 12 is actually in that good of shape (count me among them). Did we all just forget that about 9 months ago, this was a conference on life support — and it has already lost its two tent pole franchises to the SEC.
What do you sell if you’re the Big 12: Arizona State? Oklahoma State? Farmageddon? UCF? There’s just no there there. It’s CUSA with a bigger budget. But, it’s also the only way that the B12, as presently comprised, can survive.
I recently found out my 9-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog Frankie has histiocytic sarcoma — a cancer that is the top killer of her breed. We decided to give Frankie radiation therapy, and thankfully, it has helped her quite a bit. She’s moving around a lot better as the pain in her leg from the cancer has subsided, and her appetite has returned. For all intents and purposes, she’s behaving like her old self. She’s not going on long walks anymore, but other than that, everything else seems the same.
She still has histiocytic sarcoma, though. The radiation was palliative and helped her with the pain. It didn’t cure the cancer, and at some point in the next 12 months (if we’re fortunate to get that much time), she will be in too much pain to go on be put down.
Colorado returning to the Big 12 feels more like radiation than a cure. I know our attention spans get shorter by the day, but to say the Big 12 “won” ignores all the losses in recent years. We can’t forget why the Big 12 was desperate to poach Colorado from the Pac-12 and why it’s still actively looking to expand.
It has to.
And, finally, with the close of July, so too ends the University of Alabama Basketball recruiting period. Despite a slow start, the Tide really turned it on late, bolstered especially by lots of talent from the portal.
For the 4th straight season, all under Coach Oats, Alabama finishes with a Top 10 class whose highlights include:
- The Summit League 6th man of the year, and a player we have described as “perfect” for the offense: big man Grant Nelson.
- The back-to-back CAA Player of the Year, combo guard Aaron Estrada (take that, Q).
- Big-time poaching out of the Tarheel State, snagging NC product F Jarin Stevenson from the clutches of North Carolina.
- And many, many others.
Is the PAC 12 going to die? Or will it just morph into a far weaker, diminished product?
It’ll survive, but weaker
It’ll survive and even thrive
It’ll survive but be about the same