Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Yesterday was an intriguing day in the NFL, but we need to take a look at Saturday’s most shocking college football result in more detail.
In today’s SI:AM:
Colorado’s emergence as the nation’s most compelling team isn’t the only way the college football world has been turned on its head this season. Alabama—the most consistently dominant team in the sport—suddenly looks more than vulnerable.
The Crimson Tide escaped Tampa on Saturday with a 17–3 win over South Florida that has raised serious questions about Bama’s dynastic grip on the sport.
Final scores can be deceiving when it comes to Alabama games. A low-scoring game can be the result of a methodical suffocation of the Tide’s opponent. But this was not that. It was a shockingly evenly matched game.
Alabama had 15 first downs in the game. USF had 14. The Tide outgained their opponents by the alarmingly slim margin of 310–264. The Bulls ran for 177 yards and narrowly won the possession battle. The game was tied 3–3 until Bama finally scored its first touchdown with 4:35 to play in the third quarter.
Again, this is USF, an AAC team that went 4–29 over the past three seasons and has not beaten an FBS opponent since 2019. Alabama should have wiped the floor with an opponent like that. The fact that it was such a competitive game is rightly setting off alarm bells in Tuscaloosa.
The knee-jerk reaction is to pin Alabama’s struggles on its quarterback situation. Jalen Milroe, who was less than stellar in last week’s loss to Texas, was benched in favor of Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner. But Buchner was abysmal against USF, completing just five of 14 passes for 34 yards, and was benched in the second quarter in favor of Ty Simpson. It was Simpson who led the two touchdown drives, but Bama leaned on the running game, and he threw only nine passes.
An underwhelming performance like that can’t be chalked up to a deficiency at one position, though. Alabama should have been so superior to USF in other aspects that it made lousy QB play a nonfactor, but it wasn’t. The Tide’s offensive line, usually the team’s hallmark, was a disappointment, Pat Forde writes:
Alabama’s offensive line finally started to lean on the Bulls in the fourth quarter, springing Roydell Williams for a couple of big runs on his way to 129 rushing yards on the night. But the running game was pretty punchless in the first half and the line did not do a good job protecting Buchner or Simpson, surrendering five sacks. The Tide now have allowed 12 sacks in three games, after giving up 22 all of last season.
So what’s the root issue? Perhaps the finger should be pointed at new Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, who was hired away from Notre Dame after Bill O’Brien joined the Patriots. If Nick Saban decides to make a change and strip the play-calling duties from Rees, he has plenty of options. Former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, longtime NFL head coach and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and former Rutgers and Boston College offensive coordinator John McNulty are all on Saban’s staff as offensive analysts and have experience calling plays.
The nail-biter against USF dropped Alabama from No. 10 to No. 13 in this week’s AP poll. It’s the first time since 2015 that the Tide have been ranked outside the top 10, snapping a streak of 128 straight weeks. Bama faces one of the biggest tests left on its schedule next week when No. 15 Ole Miss comes to Tuscaloosa. The past two weeks have been disappointing for Alabama, but conference play is an opportunity for a fresh start. A convincing win over a quality opponent would go a long way toward the Tide solidifying themselves as an SEC contender. A loss, though? A loss would be a sign of a changing of the guard.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- Here are Albert Breer’s Week 2 takeaways, leading with the Ravens’ big win and the Cowboys’ stellar defense.
- After losing to Baltimore, Conor Orr believes it may be time to start freaking out about the Bengals.
- The Dolphins’ ugly win over the Patriots was actually a good sign for their future, Gilberto Manzano argues.
- That loss to Miami dropped New England to 0–2 for the first time in more than 20 years.
- You may have seen Jon Wertheim’s interview with Deion Sanders on 60 Minutes last night. Here are some outtakes from his conversation with college football’s most popular coach.
- Sanders’s instant success comes with fascinating implications for the future, Pat Forde writes.
- Tom Verducci spoke with Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos about how Atlanta is gearing up for the playoffs after a dominant regular season.
- The Angels botched the end of what is likely Shohei Ohtani’s last season with the franchise, Emma Baccellieri writes.
The top five...
… moments from Week 2 of the NFL season:
5. Ian Eagle’s Taylor Swift reference after Travis Kelce’s touchdown.
4. Davante Adams’s nifty route.
3. This mascot’s brutal stiff arm on a kid during the Falcons’ halftime entertainment.
1. Patriots special teamer Brenden Schooler’s running start to block a field goal.
On this day in 2010, reliever Garrett Crochet made his professional debut and big league debut for the White Sox, skipping over the minor leagues and going straight to the majors. Before Crochet, who was the last player to make his MLB debut before playing in the minor leagues?
- David Price
- Chris Sale
- Brandon Finnegan
- Mike Leake
Friday’s SIQ: On Sept. 15, 2002, which quarterback began a streak of six consecutive 300-yard passing games, becoming just the third player in NFL history (after Steve Young and Kurt Warner) to do so?
- Tom Brady
- Drew Bledsoe
- Daunte Culpepper
- Rich Gannon
Answer: Rich Gannon. Steve Young (1998) and Kurt Warner (2000) were the first two players to string together six such games in a row. Before them, only one player (Joe Montana in 1982) even had five consecutive 300-yard games.
Gannon was an unlikely man to etch his name in the history books. He was 36 years old and had had a mostly unremarkable career up to that point. In previous stints with the Chiefs, Vikings and Washington, Gannon had never averaged more than 200 passing yards per game. But working with Jon Gruden in Oakland unlocked something in him. He made his first Pro Bowl in his first season with the Raiders in 1999, then was named a first-team All-Pro choice in 2000. In ’02, Gannon led the league in passing yards and won the MVP as he led Oakland to an AFC championship.
In the two decades since Gannon’s streak, 300-yard passing games have become increasingly common, but the list of guys who have strung together six in a row is still fairly short. Since Gannon, there have been nine such streaks, by six different players. Patrick Mahomes has done it three times, including one eight-game streak in 2018. Drew Brees holds the record with nine straight 300-yard games—a feat he accomplished twice in his career.