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Jumbo Package: Field is going to be a soggy, sloppy mess

Happy Friday, everyone. Biggest news of the day is that OL coach Brent Key will apparently be leaving for Georgia Tech, his alma mater, after the season, joining new coach Geoff Collins. Could be any number of reasons for the move, but Key pulled in a whale of a class this cycle as the lead recruiter on OL signees Evan Neal, Amari Kight, and Pierce Quick among others. Good luck to him, and Saban will have yet another spot to fill.

The college football powers that be really couldn’t have screwed up their championship game any worse if they had tried.

The cover photo is from Super Bowl 50, the game that had to be stopped in order to repair the turf at this very venue. NFL teams complain about the playing surface constantly, and it was in such poor shape recently that they replaced it. Now the weather forecast calls for a solid three days of rain leading up to kickoff, with more rain likely during the contest. Fabulous. If there is any good news there, Alabama’s backs are a bit bigger and more powerful than Travis Etienne. Sloppy field conditions normally favor big downhill runners. Might even be a Jalen-and-Najee game to some degree.

At least the weather won’t affect many fans.

Prices for tickets to Monday’s College Football Playoff title game at the San Francisco 49ers home in Santa Clara, California, have dropped more than 50 percent since last week, according to SeatGeek. The cheapest ticket available Thursday afternoon was $157, while the average resale price was $566.

That’s the lowest SeatGeek has seen in the final’s five-year history, according to spokesman Chris Leyden.

This stadium wouldn’t be full in perfect weather. It’s simply a poor venue for college football. Hopefully they learn from this and use traditional bowl sites in the future.

Practice note:

With Miller limited, inside linebacker Dylan Moses was doing individual drills with the OLBs. Moses played a good bit outside as a freshman in 2017 so it isn’t as if he’d be learning everything all at once there.

During nickel drills, Moses was still in his normal spot in the package. It might be the case that he’ll take some pass rush snaps where Miller would normally play, but otherwise could stay inside. Alabama might not be in its base defense with four linebackers a ton anyway.

As noted, Alabama will be in its base defense very rarely. Miller’s absence would likely mean more reps for Anfernee Jennings in nickel and more pass rush opportunity for Dylan Moses in dime. Oh, you may have heard that Josh Jacobs missed practice yesterday. By all accounts that was an excused absence to take care of a personal matter, and he is expected back today.

An underrated part of Lawrence’s game is his mobility, but he hasn’t used it much until late in the season. He has 86 yards on 10 carries in the last three regular-season games. Swinney said he’d like to see Lawrence take off more.

”Sometimes people will drop and play coverage and receivers will have to work and work and work to try to get open and he’s confident he can rip it there,” Swinney said.

Because Alabama is so good up front with Williams, Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs (team-high 9.5 sacks), it is likely Lawrence will see a lot of seven- and eight-man coverage and get some opportunities to run.

”If Alabama is going to give you anything, you damn well better take it,” Cubelic said.

Honestly, I don’t think Clemson wants Lawrence running too much in this game because they can’t afford to lose him. Chase Brice wouldn’t have a prayer against Alabama’s front. As far as running style, Lawrence has some speed and agility but he is very long and lanky. It takes him a little longer to get going.

Bill Connelly has this one as a nail-biter, folks.

It’s crazy to call Alabama and Clemson — the teams that met in the championship in both 2015 and 2016 and in the semis in 2017 — overachievers, but here we are. Neither Vegas nor S&P+ kept up with how good either really was, underestimating both consistently despite having them at or near the very top all year.

That’s wild, and it’s probably encouraging for those of us hoping for an awesome championship game. This game is projected tightly, and neither team makes a habit of underachieving.

It may feel like this title game was ordained back in early October. But it should still be a doozy, now that we’re finally here.

S&P+’s final score pick for the National Championship: Alabama 30, Clemson 29.

Statistically, this game is dead even. Alabama’s main advantage lies in the schedule, as they are far more battle tested than the Tigers, particularly at the QB position where Notre Dame is the only defense of consequence that young Trevor has faced as a starter. He is more likely to need an adjustment period in the beginning, which could give the typically fast starting Tide a chance to grab a lead.

Sometimes the old dog doesn’t need new tricks.

“It’s different,” said Alabama secondary coach Karl Scott when asked about Saban’s communication methods. “When everyone is trying to be the same, he’s trying to be himself. He’s not going to try and be something he’s not. Whether it’s recruits or parents, people pick up on when you’re not yourself, when you’re phony. People love when they sit in the office with him. They said, ‘Oh man, he’s just a regular person.’”

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne learned Saban’s communication preferences when he was in town interviewing for the job. He was chatting with Saban at his house when Saban excused himself to take a phone call. Byrne asked Saban if he texted, and the coach responded: “They made these phones to talk on.”

That last quote is as stubborn and curmudgeonly as it gets. Works for him, though.

Last, even Bebes has come around to calling Saban the best ever.

“In coach Bryant’s time, he was the greatest college coach ever,” Stallings said Thursday. Obviously, you look at the win-loss record, how can you say coach Saban’s not?”

Over 23 years, Saban is 237-62-1 for a winning percentage of 79 percent.

At Alabama, he is 146-20 for a winning percentage of 88 percent.

Bryant, on the other hand, was 323-85-17 (78 percent) over 38 years.

There really is little debate at this point, particularly if they take home another one Monday.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.

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