Look, I am football junkie. I have been one for most of my life. Though I grew up in the mid-to-late 1980s, I was always trying to satisfy my football craving, especially during the summer months.
To get my fix, if you will, I would stock up on the annual preseason magazines – Athlon, Street & Smith and The Sporting News were my favorites. Of course, back then, we did not have the luxury of the internet where we could find college football content year around like we do today.
And though I can read about college football pretty much anywhere, and I write about it every day, I still feel the need to buy my annual preseason magazines. It’s how I learn a lot about the other teams around the country. Plus, I just love to read the printed editions. I am still fond of the old school approach.
So recently I bought my annual addition of Athlon’s national preseason magazine and as always it is full of good information on every team at the FBS and the FCS levels. However, there are two things I read in the magazine that have me scratching my head.
First off, let me start by saying Athlon has Alabama as its preseason No. 1 team. Though I don’t agree with them, I can understand why they picked the Crimson Tide. However, when reading through the pages and coming across the position rankings, two of their rankings definitely made me question their choices.
In the magazine, Athlon ranks Alabama’s quarterback and wide receivers head of Clemson, who is ranked No. 2 at both positions. This is a head scratcher. Why?
Like I said, because of all the players the Tigers lost on defense, I can understand the Crimson Tide being ranked as the best overall team, but when I look at the two offenses and I consider what I saw on January 7 in Santa Clara, California, there is no way Tua Tagovailoa is better than Trevor Lawrence or any of the Alabama receivers are better than Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.
I have to ask … did they not watch the game?
Lawrence was sensational in the game, throwing for 347 yards and three touchdowns on 20 of 32 passes with no interceptions. Ross was unstoppable. Not only did he make two circus-like catches, but he finished the game with six receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown. Higgins was also masterful in the game, with three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
On the flip side, Tagovailoa had his worse game all season. The Tigers intercepted him twice, returning one for a touchdown at the beginning of the game and then using a second one to set up a touchdown and seize control of the game.
The interceptions were not fluke plays either. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables baited Tagovailoa into throwing both interceptions and was in the Heisman Trophy runner-up’s head all night.
Though Tagovailoa threw for 295 yards and two scores on 22 of 34 passing, he ended the night with a quarterback rating of 21.1, while Lawrence had a rating of 91.5.
It was clear who the better quarterback was on Jan. 7. Also, keep in mind Lawrence went up against the best secondary coach in the game in Nick Saban and he still picked up apart the Alabama secondary all night.
Also, let’s not forget, Clemson’s secondary was maligned all season and many of the national media pundits wondered how well the Tigers could hang with Tagovailoa and his wide receivers. We all found out that answer.
Speaking of Alabama’s wide receivers, Jerry Jeudy had a great game against the Tigers, catching 5 passes for 139 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown. However, no one else on Bama’s roster did much of anything.
After Jeudy’s 62-yard touchdown in the first quarter, Venables kept the Tigers in deep coverage the rest of the night and allowed the Tide to have what it wanted underneath. Devonta Smith caught six passes, but he averaged just 10.8 yards per catch. Freshman Jaylen Waddle, one of Tagovailoa’s top targets, was held to just two catches for 25 yards.
So, based off what we saw in January, and based off what we know is coming back this year, it does not make sense to have Tagovailoa the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy over Lawrence, not right now, nor does it make sense to say Alabama’s corps of receivers are better than Clemson’s.
The evidence we have in front of us, at this moment, does not support Athlon’s opinion. But it is their opinion and at least it gives us something to talk and write about as we continue to try and satisfy our football cravings.