Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Short takes: Defense, running game could carry Alabama to title


For my column on Alabama defensive coordinator -- and Georgia coach in waiting -- Kirby Smart, click here to go to Dawgnation.com or here to go to SEC Country or here to go to MyAJC.

Below are my three "short takes" on the game.

1. Look out, here comes Alabama again: This isn't nearly the best team Nick Saban has had at Alabama. But with a dominating defense and one of the nation's best running backs in Derrick Henry (189 yards, one touchdown), the Tide certainly is capable of winning a national championship. This makes two straight SEC titles and four in the last seven seasons under Saban, and if the Tide can win two playoff games it would be Saban's fifth national title overall (four at Alabama, one at LSU). Alabama surely will face tougher offenses in the playoffs than Florida, which was held to one scoring possession , seven first downs and 180 yards in offense (15 rushing) by Kirby Smart's defense. Also, 81 of Treon Harris's 165 passing yards came on a meaningless late touchdown drive. Florida went 0-for-11 on third down. The other playoff teams are going to have a difficult time handling Alabama's defensive front.

2 Is this it for Nick Saban? This seems to be an annual discussion. The 64-year coach obviously has nothing left to prove and occasionally speaks about the difficulty of dealing with annual high (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations in Tuscaloosa. Paul Finebaum, a long-time Alabama sportstalk radio host, speculated this past week that if Alabama wins another national title, he wouldn't be surprised if Saban stepped away. There was a time when I believed Saban wanted to try the NFL one more time after his abbreviated tenure with the Miami Dolphins. I now doubt that because of his age. But would he retire? Nothing would shock me but I tend to doubt it. Then again, I thought Mark Richt wouldn't want to coach again, or at least take a year off after the Georgia firing. He took a job four days later.

3 About the SEC East: Wow, so this was the best SEC East Division had to offer? Alabama's win was the seventh straight conference title for an SEC West team (Alabama four, Auburn two, LSU one). The last East team to win the conference championship was Florida in 2008, and that Gators team was superior to this one. I know Georgia fans are depressed/angry/disenchanted about not making it to the title game the last three seasons but the Gators didn't forecast greatness for next season. Defensively, they're good, but they eventually wore down. Offensively, they're a train wreck. Florida's biggest question is the same as Georgia's: Can it improve at the quarterback position? Top recruit Jacob Eason verbally committed to the Bulldogs and signed his financial papers, but there's now concern he will flip to Miami (Mark Richt) or Florida. I would think Florida is the greater threat because Miami already is set at the quarterback position.


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.