Short takes: Defense, running game could carry Alabama to title

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart during the SEC championship at the Georgia Dome Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

For my column on Alabama defensive coordinator — and Georgia coach in waiting — Kirby Smart, click here to go to Dawgnation.com or here to go to SEC Country or here to go to MyAJC.

Below are my three “short takes” on the game.

1. Look out, here comes Alabama again: This isn’t nearly the best team Nick Saban has had at Alabama. But with a dominating defense and one of the nation’s best running backs in Derrick Henry (189 yards, one touchdown), the Tide certainly is capable of winning a national championship. This makes two straight SEC titles and four in the last seven seasons under Saban, and if the Tide can win two playoff games it would be Saban’s fifth national title overall (four at Alabama, one at LSU). Alabama surely will face tougher offenses in the playoffs than Florida, which was held to one scoring possession, seven first downs and 180 yards in offense (15 rushing) by Kirby Smart’s defense. Also, 81 of Treon Harris’s 165 passing yards came on a meaningless late touchdown drive. Florida went 0-for-11 on third down. The other playoff teams are going to have a difficult time handling Alabama’s defensive front.

2 Is this it for Nick Saban? This seems to be an annual discussion. The 64-year coach obviously has nothing left to prove and occasionally speaks about the difficulty of dealing with annual high (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations in Tuscaloosa. Paul Finebaum, a long-time Alabama sportstalk radio host, speculated this past week that if Alabama wins another national title, he wouldn’t be surprised if Saban stepped away. There was a time when I believed Saban wanted to try the NFL one more time after his abbreviated tenure with the Miami Dolphins. I now doubt that because of his age. But would he retire? Nothing would shock me but I tend to doubt it. Then again, I thought Mark Richt wouldn’t want to coach again, or at least take a year off after the Georgia firing. He took a job four days later.

3 About the SEC East: Wow, so this was the best SEC East Division had to offer? Alabama’s win was the seventh straight conference title for an SEC West team (Alabama four, Auburn two, LSU one). The last East team to win the conference championship was Florida in 2008, and that Gators team was superior to this one. I know Georgia fans are depressed/angry/disenchanted about not making it to the title game the last three seasons but the Gators didn’t forecast greatness for next season. Defensively, they’re good, but they eventually wore down. Offensively, they’re a train wreck. Florida’s biggest question is the same as Georgia’s: Can it improve at the quarterback position? Top recruit Jacob Eason verbally committed to the Bulldogs and signed his financial papers, but there’s now concern he will flip to Miami (Mark Richt) or Florida. I would think Florida is the greater threat because Miami already is set at the quarterback position.

Recent ramblings
If Alabama’s defense is a sign, Kirby Smart is ready to be a head coach
• Here’s hoping Mark Richt is doing this for right reasons
Weekend Predictions: Alabama restores order after a wacky week
Blog: Miami makes a great hire; did Richt make a great decision? 
• On Kirby Smart, coordinators, loud but effective strength coach (video)
• Kirby Smart hire makes sense for Georgia, even if wow factor lacking
• Richt will enjoy quiet for first time, may be done coaching
• Greg McGarity’s career will be defined by first major hire
Falcons have a problem, and surprisingly it’s their quarterback
• Richt’s firing confirms what many believed: It was time for a change
McGarity mum on Richt, and Georgia’s win doesn’t feel like a celebration
Short takes on Georgia’s win
Johnson, Bobinski confident about Tech’s future
• Weekend Predictions: Dogs over Jackets in Bad Aura Bowl
A new tradition, in the spirit of Furman Bisher: Giving thanks (to those who deserve it)
• Overreaction Monday: Richt’s status, Ryan’s fall, and does Tech have a chance?
Georgia Tech loses Justin Thomas, ball and all hope
Short takes: Jackets lose Thomas, fumble nine times (yes, nine)
• Weekend Predictions: It’s marshmallow opponent week
• Coppolella tired of being roasted, says, ‘We are not tanking’
Roddy White has survived far worse things than reduced role in offense: tragedy
• Why are those Freeman T-shirts included in Braves’ clearance sale?
• Overreaction Monday: Richt’s ploy, Falcons’ bye, Braves’ salary dump
Jeremy Pruitt’s defense is salvaging Georgia’s season
Short takes on Georgia’s win over Auburn
• Simmons gone, and Braves’ offseason already looking like last one
Weekend Predictions: It’s not a good time to invest in Georgia
Former Georgia player Faloughi at center of Missouri protests
• Overreaction Monday: Kyle Shanahan, have you met Roddy White?
Latest Falcons’ embarrassment is on Dan Quinn
• Short takes: This Falcons’ loss is on Dan Quinn
Weekend Predictions: Dogs in middle of Dysfunction Junction
Georgia’s finish, Eason status shouldn’t tilt Richt decision
• Richt should take over Georgia’s struggling offense
• Overreaction Monday: Loss-loss-loss means chaos all around
Mark Richt has failed too many big moments — it’s time for a change at Georgia
Falcons may be 6-2 but they don’t look the part
Short takes: Sloppy Falcons gift-wrap game for mediocre Bucs
Matt Ryan: ‘It comes down to me being better’

Reader Comments 0

22 comments
HadleyV
HadleyV

Alabama should beat michigan state by 10+. The Alabama - OU game will be close, but the bama D should control. Alabama 30 OU 24

FSUNole
FSUNole

bama is not going to win the NC...they'll get smoked by clemson or ou

TideDawg
TideDawg

I read Mark Bradley's article this morning. This man is insane. He already has Georgia in the SEC CG in 2016. Evidently he thinks that a new HC, a new influx of high school players, and a new coaching staff can mold a team into a championship team in one year. Well, maybe, McElwain did it. Give Smart a chance and he will probably produce in time. He knows what it takes but getting everyone on the same page in a short period of time is going to be difficult. Smart will have to recognize and eliminate any player, or assistant coach that doesn't buy in to that thinking before it becomes a problem. He's going to be good and he's going to produce a winner but I don't think it will be 2016.

Mulk
Mulk

@TideDawg He's had 'em in it for the last 3 years. Probably the years before that. He's had them winning  NC's, too. And, that was WITH Richt. 

Big Wally
Big Wally

So Muschamp is going to SC.  Hope we can keep Pruitt.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @Big Wally

Maybe CPJ should give Pruitt a call, nah why waste the minutes on his cell plan. Hope the turnout at this years Fish Fry is not hurt by the fact there is no bowl game at Tech. CPJ should have plenty of those ACC 2014 Coastal Championship Cups (Red Solo) to serve Milwaukee's Best in at his Fish Fry this year.

Mulk
Mulk

@Buschleaguer @TOJacket @Big Wally Busch,


One thing for sure, wherever he goes, he won't be there very long.That Pruitt guy wears his welcome out pretty fast. Besides, Coach Roof is a much better DC than Pruitt.

Mulk
Mulk

Bama's defense has more to do with Bama players than with Kirby Smart. Does he get to bring THEM with him?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Mulk 

I hope Smart can recruit some of these linemen that he had at Bama. He did actually recruit them to go to Bama.

Mulk
Mulk

@Big Wally @Mulk Is he taking his players there? Or, are you claiming the national championships he won while at Bama?

pride
pride

ESPN, NCAA, AJC writers = cowards.  I have not seen 1 negative comment on Henry's 90 carries in 2 games in the midst of a plethora of brain concussion/brain damage information filling the air waves.  Nick Saban ought to be personally responsible for any health problems Henry develops over time.  Truly a disgrace.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@pride And when he gets to the NFL things will be so much easier...right?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@pride 

How about those poor linemen who play 80 to 90 % of all snaps ,or defensive players tackling these running backs .

Big Wally
Big Wally

@pride Don't forget the water boys/girls, having to run back and forth with all those water bottles.  Oh the humanity.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@Buschleaguer @pride Obviously, you're trying to rationalize the thinking of someone that has been cloned from Nancy Pelosi. You can't expect Pride to understand the game the way he/she/it writes a comment like that.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Let me be the first to say Jacob Eason will be a Florida Gator next year. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Buschleaguer @TOJacket I told my cuz (UGA grad) this week that CMR is why you don't have DeShawn Watson........Pro style non-sense....that's what I played in High school?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket

Eason was CMR's boy ,hope Smart updates the offense to take more advantage of speed of his RB's and a running threat a QB. Too bad DeSean Watson went to Clemson instead of UGa ,but of course CMR would have him playing DB instead of QB.