Alabama may have fallen just shy of a second straight national championship last January, so why not emulate some of the plays used by a Super Bowl champion? The hiring of a former New England Patriots assistant coach as offensive coordinator was bound to make that a possibility.
Brian Daboll is busy working with the Alabama offense this spring as he takes over as offensive coordinator following the departures of Lane Kiffin (FAU) and Steve Sarkisian (Atlanta Falcons), and he has been sprinkling in some plays that have helped contribute to the recent success in New England. Daboll has been taking advantage of his connections from his previous job by setting up instant conversations over FaceTime between Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
“We’re running some of the same stuff they’ve ran, so he’ll call Tom Brady and ask him what his top five plays are,” Hurts said, according to ESPN. “It’s cool because we’re running the same plays he’s ran.”
As if Alabama needed much help winning, now they’re getting professional advice from a future hall of fame quarterback and an all-pro tight end and more. The rich get richer.
And don’t forget, Brady is 1-0 in his career against Alabama. He led Michigan to an Orange Bowl victory over the Crimson Tide with 369 pasing yards and four touchdowns at the end of the 1999 season. Of course, that was before Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa.
The new college football season may still be a long way away, but it is never too early to place your bets on who you think will win the Heisman Trophy in the 2017 season. The very early favorite, according to odds released by Bovada on Monday, is Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Bovada gives Mayfield 11/2 odds to win the Heisman Trophy this fall. He is followed by Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (6/1), which sets up a nice Heisman Trophy showdown in September when the defending Big 12 champions head to Columbus for the second game in a home-and-home series that was won by Ohio State in Norman in 2016. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, is listed with 7/1 odds, with USC’s rising star quarterback Sam Darnold listed at 9/1.
Penn State’s dynamic duo of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley each have 10/1 odds, along with Washington quarterback Jake Browning.
Looking back to the early odds from last January, Barrett and Mayfield each had 10/1 Heisman odds. Louisville’s Jackson was not on the radar.
Washington held their own in the first quarter, aside from one late lost fumble that led to an Alabama field goal at the start of the second quarter, but Alabama’s defense is beginning to gain control of this game. Alabama leads Washington, 17-7, at halftime in the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Peach Bowl.
The Huskies have had two turnovers lead to 10 points for Alabama, including a pick-six by Ryan Anderson late in the first half to push Alabama’s lead to 17-7 at halftime.
Washington’s defense has done its part to keep this game from getting out of hand, however. Washington has forced Alabama to punt the ball away twice since scoring the go-ahead field goal from Adam Griffith, with the Crimson Tide only getting as far as the Washington 28-yard line, but an intentional grounding penalty on Jalen Hurts cost the Tide 16 yards (and likely prevented Alabama from at least another three points). The field position battle is not going in Washington’s favor, and the Huskies offense have not been able to get a drive going with three consecutive three-and-outs since fumbling the football away in the first quarter.
The two teams exchanged touchdown drives in the first quarter, with Jake Browning completing a touchdown pass to Dante Pettis for a 7-0 lead, but Bo Scarbrough powered his way to a game-tying touchdown on the ensuing possession for Alabama.
Unless the Huskies can find some way to crack Alabama’s defense, the Crimson Tide look primed and ready to head to the national championship game to defend their title against either Ohio State or Clemson.
The Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies may had a few butterflies at the start of the game with a poor kickoff return from John Ross and a quick three-and-out, but the Huskies struck first in the first quarter of a College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against SEC champion Alabama in the Peach Bowl. Jake Browning delivered a beautiful pass to Dante Pettis to cap the second offensive series of the game for Washington.
The touchdown pass from Browning was his 43rd of the season, setting a new Pac-12 record for most touchdown passes in a single season, breaking the previous record set by former Cal quarterback Jared Goff in 2015.
The Crimson Tide would respond on the ensuing possession by flexing some muscle up front. Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Jalen Hurts all picked up yards on the ground for Alabama, with a key 16-yard gain by O.J. Howard through the air along the way before Scarbrough powered his way across the goal line to score a touchdown on the next drive.
Washington looked to be putting together a decent response of their own on the next drive, but a short pass to Ross was lost by the talented wideout and picked up by Alabama’s Jonathan Allen on Washington’s side of the field. Alabama holds the football at the start of the second quarter as a result.
One key position to keep an eye on as the game plays on will be Washington right tackle, true freshman Nick Harris. Harris has earned a starting role on the Washington offensive line as the season has gone alone, bu he has been given a massive test today against one of the best defensive front sin the nation today. There have already been a few rough moments on the edge.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson will now have an opportunity to do something no quarterback has ever done. Jackson will attempt to become the first quarterback in the history of the Heisman Trophy to win the award a second time. And considering how weel his 2016 season started (despite sputtering in the end), the hype machine will be in full force in 2017 out of Louisville. History will not be on his side of course, as there has been just one two-time Heisman Trophy winner (Archie Griffin of Ohio State).
Recent quarterbacks who have come up short of winning a second Heisman Trophy have included Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel. Jackson should have some stiff competition to pose with the stiff-arm trophy in 2017, including at the quarterback position alone. For starters, 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield will be back at Oklahoma with a chance to pick up where he has left this season, and that will include a second crack against Ohio State (in Columbus).
Other quarterbacks that should be in the conversation will include USC’s Sam Darnold, Washington’s Jake Browning and perhaps UCLA’s Josh Rosen out of the Pac-12. Alabama’s Jalen Hurts will certainly garner some attention, as will Penn State’s Trace McSorley) and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett if he returns in 2017. And with Tom Herman the QB Whisperer taking over the show in Austin, look for a big year from Texas quarterback Shane Buechele to catch some eyes.
Running backs have lost their edge in the Heisman Trophy game over the last 15 years, but Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Derrius Guice of LSU and Kamryn Pettway of Auburn may be worth watching closely. Ohio State’s biggest playmaker, Kurtis Samuel, should be in the conversation as well. And for those who insist on throwing a defensive player in the mix, Houston’s Ed Olliver will be the name to watch, although a defensive player from a Group of Five program likely has as minimal a chance to win the Heisman Trophy as there exists. USC’s Adoree’ Jackson isn’t shy about starting his own campaign either.
But the fun part about the Heisman Trophy conversation every season is seeing which player pops up out of nowhere to take the college football world by storm. That will likely be the case in the month of September, but it is anyone’s guess who it may be. Or maybe Jackson will have what it takes to make history.