Happy Monday, everyone. It’s Christmas Eve, and not many reporters are putting out much coverage of the game just yet. As always, however, we will give you what we have.
Smart betting pick
These teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring this season, but Alabama owns a huge advantage on defense. Also, while Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is dealing with a sore ankle, backup Jalen Hurts led the comeback in the SEC championship game victory. Smart money here gives the points.
The general consensus thus far is that Alabama should cover the spread. Depending on your personality, that either gives you confidence or has you hiding under the covers in fear.
Still, the talent level can appear lopsided at times. Oklahoma had eight players named All-Big 12 on offense, plus two more on special teams, compared to one second-team selection on defense.
“They’re a really good group,” Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams said. “I think there’s kind of a narrative that they’re not, and that’s a product of the stats that people put up in the Big 12. The way they play their offense, it’s like the offense I played in high school where we’re putting 60, 70 points on everyone. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad defenses, that’s just kind of how that offense works.”
Look, that’s exactly how the players should be approaching it. The offensive coaches have to secretly be like a kid in a candy store watching the film, though. Of course, Alabama’s defense hasn’t been perfect this year, either.
“If there is a vulnerability on the Alabama defense it’s likely at middle linebacker,” said Aaron Suttles, who covers the Tide for The Athletic. “That might sound weird for a unit that features Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses (both second-team All-Americans), but that group has been exposed in the passing game this season. Tight ends and running backs have been lost and turned free.”
To this point, AL.com beat writer Michael Casagrande said: “Georgia really nickel and dimed them pretty well in the first half of the SEC championship.”
Mental errors from the LB group has been an issue that has popped up at various times this season. Against an offense as potent as this one, Mack and Dylan simply must avoid maintain discipline. Still, in most years this matchup would be billed as Alabama’s defense vs. Oklahoma’s offense. Not this year.
“They’ve grown a lot in the throw game,” Riley said. “They certainly have been a little more explosive than maybe they’ve been in the past. They’re doing a great job schematically, doing it with great athletes, they’ve got two good trigger guys and a really good O-line. They’ve got all the ingredients, no doubt. They’ve done a tremendous job offensively. It’s going to be a lot like what we see often.”
The Sooners are preparing for both Tagovailoa and Hurts, who rallied the Crimson Tide to victory over Georgia in the SEC title game .
For perhaps the first time in the Saban era, Alabama has a better offense than defense. There will certainly be points in this one.
We still aren’t sure about Tua, though he seems to be coming along.
How’d you know the ankle injury was bad?
”My body was telling me no. My body was telling me there’s no way. I wasn’t able to extend plays. I wasn’t able to move the same and I was basically a pocket passer. I’m glad Jalen (Hurts) had that opportunity and got to step in for us and make big things happen.
Wheeling you off to the locker room, what went through your mind?
“How long is this going to take for me to recover? I was looking at the recovery time.”
Has has rehabilitation been post-surgery?
”I’ve been hitting on all cylinders. I’ve had the opportunity to run some. I’ve been able to work on my footwork a little bit.”
He has looked good in the workouts, but at this point there are only five days left. We will know soon.
Last, a couple of recruiting notes.
Why does Pickering still like Alabama?
”Ever since the first offer they gave me, it’s been the same,” Pickering said. “They haven’t stopped and they’ve been recruiting me hard ever since. One thing I like is loyalty, and they show a lot of loyalty. They don’t (say), ‘Oh, he committed to Mississippi State, he’ll stay in state, (so) let’s back off.’ They didn’t think that way. They stayed recruiting me.”
The Tide still want to sign at least one and preferably two defensive linemen. They have one commitment in Byron Young, also out of Mississippi. Hanging on to him will be paramount. The other two names to know are Pickering and Ishmael Sopsher.
Alabama high schools are also putting out some serious talent right now.
Alabama has taken advantage of the deep talent pool within its own state in the 2019 and ‘20 recruiting cycles. Overall, 13 in-state recruits are verbally committed or signed to play for the Crimson Tide between the two classes.
On Saturday, the ASWA All-State Football Team was announced for each classification. A dozen Bama pledges and signees made the list. Here’s a look.
That’s about it for today. Have a great week.