10 teams on the bubble heading into conference tournaments

March Madness is right around the corner. Before that, though, there is the matter of conference tournaments. For some teams, this is perfunctory. They have already punched their tickets to the tourney. Other teams aren’t so lucky.

This is the time of year you hear a lot about “bubble teams” and how conference tournaments could make or break them. A good run with a couple of upsets, and they will be just fine. An early exit, though, and they could be watching March Madness from home. Here are 10 college basketball teams on the bubble, presented in alphabetical order. Keep them in mind when watching conference tourneys.

Arizona State

Remember last season when the Sun Devils got off to a hot start and soared up the rankings? They ended up scuffling a bit, and this year they never quite had that run. Arizona State has been the second-best team in the Pac-12. The problem is that the conference is down this year. As such, getting upset before the finals, where a loss to Washington could be accepted, might do them in.

Clemson

The Tigers won the college football title, but their basketball team isn’t quite as good. Their overall record isn’t great, and they actually have a losing record in the ACC. However, unlike Arizona State in the weaker Pac-12, the ACC is stacked, so Clemson can be excused, to some degree, for that record. All that being said, the Tigers will likely need an upset, or two, in the ACC Tournament to make it to March Madness.

Creighton 

Creighton is on the outside looking in but just got a big boost to its credentials. The Bluejays recently beat Marquette, which was a top 10 team at the time. That’s a true marquee win, and as you are about to find out, the Big East is loaded with bubble teams. This conference tourney is going to make or break some resumes.

Georgetown

Patrick Ewing has done some good things as the freshly minted head coach at his alma mater, but this isn’t the glory days for the Hoyas. What they have going for them, though, is that they’ve beaten a lot of their fellow Big East bubble teams. They also have one win over defending champs Villanova. Let’s see if Ewing and top scorer Jessie Govan have a tourney run in them.

Indiana 

Things were looking great for the Hoosiers early in the year. They’ve only lost two non-conference games, and one of those was against Duke. Romeo Langford was looking like an NBA lottery pick. Then conference play started, and Indiana’s stock plummeted. Langford’s stock also is down, and the Hoosiers are 6-12 in Big 10 play. They would probably already be out of it, but then they beat Wisconsin and Michigan State, giving them hope.

St. John’s

Much like his fellow Dream Team member Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin has gone back to his alma mater as head coach to try and restore it to former glory. The Red Storm have 20 wins on the season, and they are currently 8-9 in the Big East. They finish the season against Xavier. A win there could clinch it…barring a tournament collapse, of course.

Saint Mary’s 

We tried to avoid mid-major teams. If you look at some projections, you will see teams like Furman and Murray State on the bubble. However, they both are likely to win their conference tournaments, and if they don’t, it’ll be a major upset. Saint Mary’s is a true bubble team, though, and one that probably won’t win its conference tournament. There’s a little team called Gonzaga to contend with. That being said, the Gaels making it to the WCC championship game against the Zags could get them over the hump.

Seton Hall 

The Pirates, like the Hoosiers, previously looked sage. Then a collapse happened. They’ve lost the bulk of their games down the stretch, and they end the season at home against Villanova. Winning that would give them a good boost heading into the tournament. It’s hard to avoid recency bias, so Seton Hall probably needs to pick up a couple of tournament wins to counteract that narrative.

All 10

By: Chris Morgan

10 things we learned from the college football season

The college football season is officially over. But that won’t stop some of us from watching Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s post-national championship press conference on repeat while listening to “Sweet Home Alabama” and gorging ourselves on South Carolina BBQ.

It was a wild ride with an ending that absolutely no one expected, and you are kidding yourself if you didn’t love every moment of it.  From the upsets, to the underwhelming performances, to the GIF’s for the ages — the 2018 college football season will forever be trapped in a glass case of emotion.

Here are 10 things we learned from it all:

1) You will never love anything as much as Swinney loves football. And his faith. The newly minted national champion Clemson head coach isn’t afraid to let people know that the Tigers final victory was due in large part to God working through them. “Only God could do this,” exclaimed Swinney in the postgame press conference. “A Hollywood movie Steve Spielberg or whoever one of them producer people are, they couldn’t write this script. They really couldn’t. Only God can do this.” Surely a higher power is at work, as the Tigers are the first 15-0 champion in 121 years.

2) Texas is back. I know. We have said this a few times over the course of this tumultuous season, but this time it’s for real. The Longhorns capped their first double-digit winning season this decade with a 28-21 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who ran for three touchdowns and threw for 169 yards, had a message for Longhorn Nation after the game:

 

3) But Jim Harbaugh isn’t. I mean physically he is; he vehemently denied rumors yet again that he would be leaving for the NFL. Fans were less than thrilled this time around with the news that Harbaugh intended to stay. Might it be because that 11th win continues to elude the Wolverines? Or was it the 41-15 smackdown they received at the hands of Florida in this year’s Peach Bowl? One thing is for sure: That 62-39 loss to Ohio State is harder to explain now. Harbaugh is struggling to change Michigan’s ability to perform well on a big stage. Luckily, there’s always next year.

4) The Playoff format is fine. Dabo said it, so therefore it’s undeniably true. But I agree with him, mostly because as it turned out we didn’t need a bigger field — all the best teams were exactly where they were supposed to be. Swinney spoke out about how expanding the Playoff could diminish the value of non-Playoff bowl games. He also said that expanding the Playoff would put less meaning on the regular season, and to some degree he’s right. There are those who would argue that because he is on the inside looking out, his words don’t carry as much weight — or that Playoff expansion is really about the fans. But this year was proof that the fans got exactly what they deserved.

5) The Pac-12 wheel of death will never stop turning over. The Conference of Champions went a dismal 3-4 in this year’s bowl season, which is a far cry from last year’s 1-8 record but is still not impressive enough to win anybody over. Oregon defeated Michigan State with ONE fourth-quarter touchdown, Stanford beat Pittsburgh with an end-zone fumble and Washington State put down Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl with three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards from quarterback Gardner Minshew. The conference is a mess, top to bottom. From the Larry Scott issues to the cannibalistic tendencies of the teams, it is clear that some major changes need to be made:

https://twitter.com/SidelineSasss/status/1056475034917588992/photo/1

6.) People just need to stop trying to make Notre Dame happen. It’s not going to happen. Not in the capacity that everyone thinks, at least. Yes the Fighting Irish made the College Football Playoff field, but after one quarter against Clemson it was clear that Brian Kelly’s squad left a lot to be desired. In fact, the Tigers went 27-0 in the remaining three quarters against Notre Dame. Quarterback Ian Book was off rhythm, and the Clemson pass rush proved too much. So next time you want to say Notre Dame is ready for a national title, just don’t.

7.) Mascot Fights are the new Twitter feuds. And yes, I’m talking about Bevo charging Uga prior to the Texas vs. Georgia Sugar Bowl. The 1,600-pound longhorn bull went after Uga X during what was supposed to be a friendly photo opp. This exchange sparked PETA to revive its argument against universities using live mascots. But at the end of the day, live mascots are part of the rich tradition woven into the college football tapestry and the animals are well taken care of. Uga has his own air-conditioned doghouse at Sanford Stadium for goodness sake:

Full List

By Emily Van Buskirk

 

Alabama at #1 and Miami #2 In New CFB Playoff Rankings

Written by Daniel Rapaport at SI.com

After a week in which a number of top teams played relatively easy opponents, Alabama remains atop the College Football Rankings after Week 12. The most notable change at the top was a flip-flop of ACC teams, as Miami leap-frogged Clemson to move into the No. 2 spot while Clemson. No. 4 Oklahoma is the final team currently in position to qualify four the four-team playoff.

The first two teams currently out are No. 5 Wisconsin, which bolstered its resume with a comfortable win over then-No. 25 Michigan, and No. 6 Auburn, which hosts No. 1 Alabama in an Iron Bowl matchup that will determine the SEC West winner on Saturday.

If Alabama beats Auburn, the Crimson Tide have virtually assured a playoff berth even if they lose to Georgia in the SEC title game. But if Auburn finds a way to pull off the upset this weekend, the committee will be forced to make a difficult decision on a one-loss Alabama team that did not win its conference.

Another SEC team lurks just outside the top four: No. 7 Georgia, which bounced back from a 40-17 defeat to Auburn with a 42-13 victory over Kentucky. Georgia has clinched the SEC West and likely still controls its own destiny. Should the Bulldogs take care of Georgia Tech this week then beat either Auburn or Alabama in the SEC title game, the Bulldogs will likely get a playoff spot.

Unbeaten Miami came back to beat Virginia 44–28 after trailing in the second half, while Clemson had no trouble with Citadel of the FBS. If Miami beats Pittsburgh this week and Clemson wins a tricky game at No. 24 South Carolina, the ACC’s playoff picture will be relatively clear: the winner of the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 2, which will be between Miami and Clemson no matter what happens this weekend, will get a playoff spot.

No. 4 Oklahoma decidedly beat Kansas 41–3 last weekend, but it did not come without distraction: senior quarterback and Heisman front runner Baker Mayfield will not start his team’s final regular season game against West Virginia after he grabbed his crotch, screaming profanities at the Jayhawks. If Oklahoma can get past West Virginia, all that will stand between the Sooners and a return to the Playoff is the Big 12 Championship game.

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New College Football Playoff Rankings With Oklahoma Getting a Seat At The Table

Written by ESPN News Staff at ESPN.com

Georgia is out, Miami is in and Oklahoma finally has a seat in the top four as the College Football Playoff rankings were announced Tuesday night.

Alabama takes over at No. 1 after the previous top-ranked team, Georgia, got blown out by Auburn on Saturday. The Tigers are now sitting at No. 6 and are two weeks away from an Iron Bowl clash with the Crimson Tide.

Clemson also benefited from Saturday’s shake-ups, as the Tigers went from No. 4 to No. 2, following losses by Georgia and Notre Dame.

After Clemson is the team that knocked off Notre Dame — Miami. The third-ranked Hurricanes nearly wore out their turnover chain with four takeaways in a 41-8 drubbing of the Fighting Irish on Saturday.

As a result of the loss, Notre Dame tumbled from No. 3 to No. 8 — one spot behind Georgia — but the Irish likely have had their hopes of making the CFP dashed.

Rounding out the top four in the CFP rankings are the Sooners, who are 9-1 after a 38-20 win over Big 12 foe TCU on Saturday. The Horned Frogs dropped from sixth to 12th after the loss in Norman. Oklahoma had been holding steady at No. 5 in the CFP rankings, but it finally made the move into the top four.

Wisconsin checks in as the highest ranked Big Ten school at No. 5. The Badgers (9-0) have plowed their way through a weak schedule and might need a top-four team to lose in order to make the jump into a playoff position, even if they win out.

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Preview Of College Football Playoff Rankings

Written by Lorenzo Arguello at SI.com

Halloween is a special day for college football fans this year. It’s the first day of the 2017 season that we get to freak out over the College Football Playoff rankings. We’ll freak out even though we know the rankings will most likely be drastically different by the time the playoff field is set in December. We’ll freak out because [INSERT MY TEAM] is too low. And we’ll freak out because [INSERT MY RIVAL] is too high.

Projecting what the selection committee’s entire Top 25 will look like would be too much fruitless guesswork. Let’s stick with fewer teams here. Based on how the previous three seasons of CFP rankings have gone and what we’ve seen on the field thus far, here’s our best guess for the top six:

1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Notre Dame
4. Ohio State
5. Oklahoma
6. Clemson

In order to explain our reasoning for the speculation above and to prepare you for an evening of yelling at your TV about stuff that doesn’t really matter that much—Mississippi State was No. 1 in the first-ever CFP rankings in 2014, remember—we’ve broken down three major themes to keep an eye on when the rankings are released Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

GEORGIA OR ALABAMA AT NO. 1?

Bama was the preseason No. 1 in every poll. Bama is still No. 1 in every poll. Bama is the college football Death Star. Bama is the corporate behemoth out to destroy your college football ma-and-pa shops. But Bama may well be No. 2 this week.

Georgia has two wins against current AP Top 25 teams, Notre Dame and Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Alabama has zero wins in this category, with its top résumé-building victory coming against a so-so Texas A&M squad that has fallen out of the rankings after suffering its third loss of the season.

Alabama can still beef up its résumé with remaining games against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. And of course, barring weirdness of epic proportions, these two teams will meet in the SEC title game with at least one playoff spot on the line, if not merely the pecking order for two spots.

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Oklahoma Rises Up To #2 In New AP Poll

Written by AP at ESPN.com

Oklahoma moved up to No. 2 in the Associated Press college football poll behind Alabama after the Sooners scored the most impressive victory of Week 2.

Three of the top six teams from last week defeated other ranked teams on Saturday, creating an early shake-up near the top of the AP Top 25. The Sooners jumped three spots after winning 31-16 at Ohio State. The last time the Sooners were this close to being No. 1 was in 2011.

The Buckeyes slipped from No. 2 to eighth.

Clemson held its spot at No. 3 after beating Auburn, and Southern California moved up two places to sixth following a victory against Stanford. Penn State is No. 5 after beating Pitt.

The Crimson Tide received 59 first-place votes. Oklahoma has two and Clemson one.

DOWN

The Buckeyes have their lowest ranking since November 2014. Ohio State that hopes this season takes a similar path.

In 2014, the Buckeyes lost at home to Virginia Tech and fell from No. 8 to No. 22 in the rankings. The Buckeyes did not lose again and won the national championship in Urban Meyer’s third season as coach in Columbus.

The Buckeyes did extend their streak of 41 polls ranked in the top 10, which dates back to Nov. 9, 2014.

OUT

Notre Dame’s stay in the Top 25 lasted one week. The Fighting Irish lost 20-19 at home to Georgia, which moved up two spots to No. 13. The Irish were the only team to fall out of the rankings.

IN

UCLA followed up its remarkable comeback victory in Week 1 against Texas A&M with a more routine blowout of Hawai’i and landed at No. 25 in the latest rankings. The Bruins moved into the rankings for the first time since starting 2016 at No. 16.

The Bruins stumbled to a four-win season last year, but quarterback Josh Rosen and the offense seem to be blossoming under new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

UPCOMING RANKED VS. RANKED

No. 3 Clemson at No. 14 Louisville: Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals nearly beat the eventual national champions in Death Valley last season. Can the Tigers’ ferocious defensive front slow down the Heisman Trophy winner?

No. 23 Tennessee at No. 24 Florida: Assuming this game is played after Hurricane Irma passes through Florida, both the Vols and Gators will come in with plenty of questions to answer.

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ACC Teams Besides Clemson Who Can Make The CFB Playoff

Written by Eric Single at SI.com

The College Football Playoff strives in many ways to replicate college basketball’s postseason drama, but in one important way, it will never be March Madness. When conference hoops tournaments come around every spring, 300-plus teams still have a chance to play for the title. College football doesn’t have the capacity for that optimism—at least one Power 5 conference champion is left on the outside looking in every year, and in 2016 Western Michigan learned that for many teams even an undefeated regular season is no guarantee of a shot at a national championship.

There are 130 Football Bowl Subdivision programs, but the number of teams with any conceivable chance of making football’s final four is nowhere near triple digits. This week, SI.com will go conference-by-conference in search of that number, highlighting the teams in each league that can harbor legitimate playoff aspirations. Up first: the ACC.

Atlantic Coast Conference

2016 champion: Clemson
Teams in committee’s final CFP rankings: Five
Teams with a playoff shot in 2017: Six

Clemson: The defending national champions get one game (vs. Kent State) to get their new quarterback (all signs point to junior Kelly Bryant) up to speed before September turns ugly: Auburn, at Louisville, a brief respite hosting Boston College, then at Virginia Tech. Luckily, the 2017 defense should be even better than the unit that last year gave Deshaun Watson some time to settle in after a shaky start.

You’ve likely heard about the havoc the loaded defensive line is expected to wreak, but that hype has overshadowed two invaluable veteran playmakers up the middle behind them: middle linebacker Kendall Joseph, the team’s leading returning tackler, and free safety Van Smith, the only returnee with multiple interceptions a year ago. The Nov. 11 visit from Florida State could remain a de facto ACC title game even if the Tigers stumble in one of those early tests.

Florida State: Aside from that trip to Clemson, the Seminoles have a manageable slate away from Doak Campbell Stadium after the neutral-site season opener against Alabama. But plenty of trouble comes through Tallahassee, especially in the first two months of the season: Miami and NC State have the defensive line talent to send the Seminoles out of September with two losses, and in mid-October Lamar Jackson and Louisville will arrive looking to replicate last year’s 43-point beatdown. Florida State has a lot of receiving production to replace, but Jimbo Fisher will probably take that problem over the offensive line injuries and inconsistencies that ran quarterback Deondre Francois ragged at times last year. Junior center Alec Eberle & Co. have pledged to give Francois time to breathe in year two as the starter, but you can’t build a clean pocket out of pledges.

Away from the line of scrimmage, the Seminoles have a trendy Heisman sleeper in safety Derwin James, one of the best freshmen in the country in five-star running back Cam Akers and blue-chip talent everywhere else on the field—plenty of weaponry to hold up their preseason top-four ranking.

Louisville: If Lamar Jackson is protected well enough to stay around the Heisman conversation, Louisville will stay around the playoff conversation. Knowing what Jackson does to a defense doesn’t necessarily give you a better chance to stop it; you just need athletes capable of running him down, like LSU and Houston had late last year. The Cardinals appear ready to once again score a truckload of points and challenge their opponents to keep up, and last year’s late-season fade that ended on a three-game losing streak will be fresh in everyone’s mind if they enter November ranked in the top 10 again.

Jaire Alexander emerged as a budding star in a shutdown cornerback role last year, and he’s one of the few non-seniors on the projected first-team defense. If Jackson’s show-stopping 2016 forced Louisville into playoff contention a year ahead of schedule, both sides of the ball have the horses to finish as strong as they start this time around.

NC State: Sure, we’ve jumped down a few pegs in terms of preseason expectations, but NC State played too many good teams tough in 2016 not to like its chances to sneak up on the rest of the Atlantic Division—think of what Penn State did to the Big Ten East a season ago as a best-case scenario. The Wolfpack were obedient extras in Jackson’s Heisman highlight reel during a blowout loss to Louisville, but they had Clemson and Florida State dead to rights in that same month span and couldn’t finish the job either time. A sweep of those three divisional opponents, however improbable, would force the committee’s hand. The Pack’s star-studded defensive line would be the equalizer in that scenario: Ends Bradley Chubb, Kentavius Street and Darian Roseboro combined for 23 sacks between them last year, and seniors B.J. Hill and Justin Jones clog the middle.

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When did the ACC become a football conference?

Written by InhaleSports Contributor Chateau Mangaroo

After Monday’s come from behind win against SEC powerhouse Alabama, the national champion Clemson Tigers have proven the ACC deserves to be called a football conference.

With an 8-3 bowl record prior to the championship game, the ACC’s success was the biggest surprise for the 2016-2017 bowl season. Not only did the conference have a repeat contender for the national title, they beat the Big 12 and the SEC, who had bowl records of 4-2 and 6-6 respectively. This is a surprising shift since the ACC is really known for its basketball juggernauts (Tobacco Road rings a bell) and not its football programs.

SB Nation’s Bill Connelly used his S&P+ Ratings scheme to highlight the ACC’s strength for this year. In fact, the ratings were so close between the ACC and SEC, Connelly said, “In this way, bowl season is actually important. This year, it could actually determine superiority between these two nearly tied conferences.”

Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel brought up one interesting point for the ACC’s shift in football power: the coaching staff. While the SEC has seen a decrease in quality coaches, the ACC has seen the exact opposite. In his January 2017 article. Mandel gave well deserved accolades to Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. With good reason, he also mentioned how Mark Richt, a former Florida State offensive coordinator and University of Georgia coach, turned around the University of Miami’s program. He didn’t forget to give kudos to Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente, Louisville’s Bobby Petrino and North Carolina’s Larry Fedora for turning around those programs. Speaking of UNC, who could forget that final kick which gave the Tar Heels a hard fought victory over the Noles last October?

Many thought ACC football was a joke because it lacked strength of schedule and a conference play-off system. But in 1991, the ACC changed the game when Florida State joined, who proceeded to dominated the ACC and the national rankings for years. During the early 90s, conference opponents like NCAA champions Clemson, were practice games for the Seminoles.

Then a funny thing happened: In 1995, a Tiki and Ronde Barber led University of Virginia squad handed the Noles their first conference loss in years. Not long after, Tommy Bowden, former FSU coach Bobby Bowden’s son and former Clemson coach, led the Tigers to a victory or two over the Seminoles and other teams like Wake Forest, NC State, and UNC followed suit.

In Braden Gall’s 2014 article, Gall gave an in-depth look at the ACC from its inception in 1953 to its current make-up. Gall noted in 2004, the ACC added University of Miami and Virginia Tech, two teams who had played on the national title stage, to its lineup. He also said when the conference added Boston College in 2005, it was able to split into divisions and host a title game. In 2013, the conference added the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Syracuse, adding more depth to the conference. In 2014, Maryland left the ACC in for the Big 10 (like we wanted them anyway) and was replaced by the University of Louisville. Since leaving the ACC, Maryland has gone 16-20 over three seasons, while Louisville has had a Heisman winner and gone 26-12. Adding these competitive teams and a conference play-off system have given legitimacy to ACC football. 

So while everyone is contemplating if Alabama is going to beat Florida State in the 2017 Chick-fil-A Kickoff classic, they should heed the words of former FSU defensive back Byron Capers, “Don’t talk crap about the ACC.”

Clemson Wins The National Championship

Written by Marc Tracy at New York Times.com

The fresh-faced Brandon Streeter looks much like he must have in the late 1990s, when he was Clemson’s quarterback. He started in 1998 and 1999. Clemson went 9-14.

Things are different now. Streeter is middle-aged, with children and a house and a career. He is no longer Clemson’s quarterback, but its quarterbacks coach. He joined the staff two years ago, and since coming aboard has whispered in the ear of the Tigers’ two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, Deshaun Watson.

In those two years, Clemson has gone 28-2. After beating Alabama on Monday night, 35-31, in a rematch of last year’s title game, the Tigers are national champions for the first time in 35 years.

“I knew it was going to happen,” Streeter said. “It was just a matter of time.”

It was that kind of faith that allowed him to speak to Watson with confidence when victory seemed beyond Clemson’s grasp on Monday night.

The game was a long slog that morphed into a shootout in the fourth quarter, when two touchdowns gave Clemson (14-1) its first lead, with less than five minutes remaining. But Streeter sensed that there was more to be done.

“I knew there was a good chance we were going to have to go back out there — that’s just how these games are,” Streeter said. “We talked to everybody about calming them down.”

Sure enough, Alabama (14-1) responded with its best drive of the game, taking back the lead and leaving Clemson 2 minutes 7 seconds to make up a 3-point deficit.

On the next drive, Watson went 6 for 8, for 50 yards, culminating in a two-yard touchdown to receiver Hunter Renfrow with one second left.

Watson threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for another score against college football’s best defense. He was picked off 17 times this season, but he threw no interceptions on Monday night.

“I never got the sense that he was rattled,” the Alabama senior Jonathan Allen said of Watson. “He’s such a great competitor.”

The game concluded only after a review of a Clemson onside kick — a mirror of last year’s virtuosic game-changer for Alabama — with Clemson players storming the field, only to be ordered back to the sideline by the referees so the offense could run one final play.

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National Championship Preview: How Do You Stop Sark?


Written by Steven Godfrey at SB Nation.com

What’s a defensive coordinator to do when the nation’s best team switches play callers the week of the national championship?

Clemson has to answer that question for Monday night’s National Championship. Seven days before kickoff, Alabama announced a surprise fast-track of its transition from FAU head coach Lane Kiffin to new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the former USC coach who’d been on staff for much of the season as an analyst.

SB Nation asked two defensive coaches of recent Alabama opponents — LSU’s Dave Aranda and Ole Miss’ just-retired Dave Wommack, whose defense twice beat the Kiffin Alabama offense — how to address the transition.

Kiffin’s offense was built on your mistakes, not Alabama’sstrengths.

“What makes [game-planning] hard this week is that Kiffin was such a huge influence on that offense, with all due respect to Coach Saban and everyone else,” Aranda said. “And it was a lot of offense. We have a formation chart for each week’s opponent. When we put up Bama’s, we couldn’t fit all the formations on our board.”

Thanks to years of the best recruiting in college football, Alabama is talented everywhere. Scouting particular players is usually an early step in game-planning against an offense. But this depth, according to Aranda and Wommack, allowed Kiffin an unusual amount of freedom.

Rather than build a game plan around formations and plays Alabama excelled at or around particularly good Alabama players, Kiffin’s offense would scout every play your defense struggles against and install that, even if it’d never run it before.

“Auburn had a fly sweep with a wheel route off of it. We struggled with it when we played them, and it eventually led to our defeat. I knew we’d see that against Alabama, and we did,” Aranda said.

“We were playing Southern Miss, and they’re in a two-two set [two receivers, two tight ends] with the back offset. The receivers are snugged, and the back runs a wheel unmolested into the boundary. [Southern Miss] hit us on that one, and then that was in Alabama’s offense against LSU. That specific play was there.

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