By Stan J. Griffin: December 7, 2016

Although his level of success as head football coach at the University of Alabama can only be described with adjectives such as prolific or staggering, it can be argued that he did his best job at the Capstone in 2016, as he took a Crimson Tide squad that entered the season with a host of questions marks and has guided it to a season-long stay at No. 1, and a 13-0 record entering the upcoming College Football Playoffs.
Of course a major reason for Alabama's success this season has been the steady and productive play of UA freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, senior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and junior offensive lineman Cam Robinson.
On Wednesday,  the Tide coach and that trio of Alabama standouts were recognized for their contributions to yet another special Crimson Tide season.
Saban,  Hurts,  Allen and  Robinson took home five of seven individual conference awards announced by the SEC.
Saban was voted the SEC Coach of the Year, Hurts was named Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, Allen was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and Robinson was honored with the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, emblematic of the SEC’s top offensive lineman.
The honors were voted on by the league's 14 head coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Saban, who was named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson and American Football Coaches Association coach of the year awards on Monday, is in his 10th season at Alabama. This season, he has led the Crimson Tide to a 13-0 record, its 26th SEC championship and a No. 1 seed in the 2016 College Football Playoff. This is the ninth consecutive season the Tide has won 10 games under Saban and the sixth straight with 11 wins. Alabama will enter the 2016 postseason on a 25-game winning streak, the longest current streak in the nation.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 6, 2016

Entering the 2016 season, Nick Saban's University of Alabama football team was picked by most pundits to repeat as both Southeastern Conference and College Football Playoff champions, despite the fact that UA had several significant questions at several critical positions.
Those positions included quarterback, running back and various positions along the offensive line and in the secondary.
Although the Tide had a roster full of young talent and some key returnees to fill those spots, many of those players being counted on were extremely inexperienced, leaving some to speculate about whether this might be one of those rare rebuilding, or shall we say reloading seasons, for the Alabama program under Saban, the tenth-year head coach.
That almost seems light years ago now.
Of course we know that things, ultimately, turned out OK for this team, as an Alabama team that began the season with high expectations, but yet many areas of possible concern, is now being mentioned by some as perhaps the greatest Tide football team ever, or at least the best one that Saban has coached in Tuscaloosa.
That is still yet to be determined as 13-0 and top-ranked Alabama has at least one more game, and possibly two to play, beginning with the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl against Washington in Atlanta,  which is a College Football Playoff semifinal contest.
We thought it might be fun, however, just to reflect a bit on the special season that has allowed the Crimson Tide to reach this point in the season as the nation's only major undefeated team, and a team that has the opportunity to perhaps become the first one to go 15-0.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: There have been many contributors for a Lane Kiffin-coordinated attack that averages just over 40 points and just over 471 yards per game, including tailbacks Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Joshua Jacobs and receivers ArDarius Stewart, O.J. Howard and Calvin Ridley, but no one has had more of an impact than true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, the native of Channelview, Texas.  Showing poise and maturity beyond his years since the Tide's opening game against Southern Cal in Arlington, Texas, he has been the centerpiece of the Tide's attack, as he has thrown for 2,563 yards and 21 touchdowns and he has also carried the ball 162 times for 841 yards and another 12 scores and is well on the way to breaking numerous UA yardage records already. He has made his share of freshman mistakes, but his ability to bounce back from those gaffes with huge positive plays and quiet leadership has been stunning.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 5, 2016

A momentum-shifting goal line stand by the University of Alabama defense against the Florida Gators during Saturday's Southeastern Conference Championship Game in Atlanta was just another example of the impact that the Crimson Tide stop unit has had on the No. 1 and 13-0 UA team in 2016.
And two of the mainstays for a Tide defense coordinated by Jeremy Pruitt have been honored with prestigious national awards for their impressive and critical play this season.
Alabama senior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is the recipient of the 2016 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to the national collegiate defensive player of the year.
Allen received the award from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and Charlotte Touchdown Club at the Nagurski awards banquet in Charlotte, N.C. Monday evening. He is the first Alabama player to win the award.
Teammate Reuben Foster, who won the Dick Butkus Award on Sunday, was also a finalist for the Nagurski.
Allen has been a force for a defense that leads the nation in total defense, rushing defense, scoring defense and defensive touchdowns. Allen leads the Tide in quarterback hurries (15) and shares the team lead in sacks (8.5) to go along with 13.0 tackles for loss. He has also returned a team-leading two fumble recoveries for 105 combined yards and two touchdowns. His 26.5 career sacks places him second on the Tide's all-time list behind former Crimson Tide standout and NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.
Allen and Foster were joined by defensive back Tarvarus McFadden (Florida State), linebacker/defensive back Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (Clemson) as finalists for this year's Nagurski Trophy. The award is named after the legendary Bronko Nagurski, who dominated college football at the University of Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle from 1927-29.
This was Alabama's sixth consecutive season, and the eighth season in the last nine, with at least one finalist for the award. The previous Crimson Tide players to be named finalists include: Reggie Ragland (2015), Landon Collins (2014), C.J. Mosley (2013), Dee Milliner (2012), Mark Barron (2011), Terrence Cody (2009) and Rashad Johnson (2008).

By Stan J. Griffin: December 4, 2016

A day after the 13-0 University of Alabama football defeated the Florida Gators 54-16 in the Georgia Dome to capture the Crimson Tide's third consecutive Southeastern Conference championship, it found out officially that it is heading......back to Atlanta.
The College Football Playoff selections were announced Sunday morning, and Nick Saban's Alabama team, as expected, was tabbed as the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
This means that Alabama will make a return trip to Atlanta for its playoff semifinal game in the Chick Fil A Peach Bowl, where it will battle Chris Petersen's No. 4 Washington Huskies Dec. 31. The game is set for a 2 p.m CT kickoff and it will be televised by ESPN.
It will be the first meeting between the Crimson Tide and Huskies since the 1986 Sun Bowl, which Alabama won 28-6 to cap a 9-3 season under Ray Perkins.
UA is 4-0 all-time against Washington.
The 12-1 Huskies captured the title of the Pac 12 Conference Friday night with a convincing 41-10 romp against the No. 8 Colorado Buffaloes. '
Petersen called the Crimson Tide "a special team and a special program," and said he has nothing but respect for what Saban's program has accomplished.
Saban said he is fully aware that his team will be battling a very talented Huskie squad.
"We haven't seen them much, but we know they have a very good team," he said. "I've seen them a few times and a little bit in the Southern Cal game and a little bit in the (Pac 12) championship game against Colorado. Outstanding players on offense and great skill players. A good quarterback (in Jake Browning) and a very good offensive line. It looks like they play tremendous defense. I don't think there's anybody that you can play at this point in the season in the playoffs that wouldn't be an outstanding football team.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 3, 2016

Entering Saturday's Southeastern Conference Football Championship Game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 15 Florida, a few of the local and national pundits wondered aloud whether the nation's top-ranked team would have the right mindset for its matchup against the Gators considering it was considered a lock for the College Football Playoffs win or lose.
And perhaps with good cause.
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide team opened the game in very shaky fashion, surrendering an early lead to a Gator team that was more than a three-touchdown underdog, and struggled at times with consistency at various points in the game.
But enough big plays on offense, defense and special teams, and a relentless, wilting running attack in the second half, proved to be more than enough for a 54-16 Crimson Tide romp in front of a crowd of 74,632 at the Georgia Dome. Senior linebacker Reuben Foster was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Alabama, with its 25th consecutive victory, improved to 13-0 and likely clinched a No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs.  The victory also leaves the Crimson Tide only two wins away from being the first major college football team to finish 15-0.
It was Alabama’s third-consecutive conference crown, and fourth in the last five years. The Tide program now has 26 SEC titles overall.
Sophomore tailback Bo Scarbrough led an Alabama team that racked up 234 yards rushing (372 total) with 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Alabama’s defense, meanwhile, held the Gators to 261 total yards, including zero on the ground.
"We didn’t start the game very well offensively although we finished the game well," said Saban. "I think, if we can create balance offensively and be a little more efficient and effective to how we pass the ball relative to how we can run it, I think that would make us better. So there’s a lot of things I think we can improve on. Red zone. I thought special teams was a little better today. That was something I was a little concerned about after the Auburn game. Ball security was not good in that game. It was very good today. We won the turnover battle by three. So we had the three interceptions, and we always say that we want every drive to end in a kick, and that’s certainly what happened today."

Florida opened the game in possession of the ball, and had little difficult moving the ball through the air on the Tide, driving for a touchdown as Austin Appleby hit Antonio Callaway on a five-yard TD pass to put the Gators up 7-0. Florida converted three separate third down conversions on the march.
The Crimson Tide began its ensuing series at the Alabama 25, and the Gator defense forced Alabama to a three-and-out as UF obviously had all of the early momentum.
But on Florida’s second series, Appleby was picked off by the Tide’s Shaun Dion Hamilton, who returned the interception to the Florida 12, setting the Tide up in good shape to possibly tie the score.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 2, 2016

With Avery Johnson's University of Alabama basketball team battling Shaka Smart's Texas Longhorns at the Erwin Center Friday night, it was a matchup of young teams still searching to find an identity, as well as a big non-conference win to gain some much-needed momentum for the rest of the season.
And for a half, it appeared that the Crimson Tide was in for a big night as hot shooting carried it to a double-digit lead at the end of the first half.
But sloppy play overall and mostly cold shooting spelled doom for Alabama after the intermission as Texas rallied to gain a 77-68 home victory.
Alabama dropped to 4-3 on the season with the disappointing defeat while the Longhorns improved to 4-3.
The Crimson Tide came out scorching the nets early, hitting seven of its first 10 shots.
Four early points by freshman forward Braxton Key, including a forceful throw-down dunk, and two early 3-point bombs by senior guard Corban Collins had Alabama up 10-2, and then a slam by senior forward Jimmie Taylor allowed the Tide to stay up by eight at 12-4 at the 15:51 mark of the first half.
After the Longhorns hit a trey to cut the Alabama lead to 12-9, Collins answered with another 3-pointer to make the score 15-9, and junior forward Riley Norris hit a basket to make it 17-9.
After sophomore forward Donta Hall slammed home two points for the Tide to make the UA lead 25-16, the Longhorns scored the next six to trim that lead to 25-22 at the 7:01 mark.
But big baskets by freshman guard Dazon Ingram, junior guard Nick King (a 3-polnter) and sophomore guard Avery Johnson Jr. led a 7-2 Tide spurt that boosted the Alabama lead back to 32-22.
With just under three minutes remaining, Key hit a 3-pointer to give him seven points and put the visiting Tide up 35-24, and Alabama led 38-26 at halftime as senior forward Shannon Hale hit a trey right before the first half buzzer.
The Tide hit 48 percent of its shots in the first 20 minutes and had six treys. Collins paced UA with nine points.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 1, 2016

It appears that many supporters of the Alabama football team, as well as many media pundits from all over the nation, have already begun to focus their collective attention on the College Football Playoffs, even though Nick Saban's 12-0 and top-ranked Crimson Tide team have much at stake Saturday when it battles Jim McElwain's No. 15 Florida Gators in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in Atlanta. This includes:
* A third straight SEC title and fourth in the last five years, and its 26th conference crown overall.
* An opportunity to remain undefeated at 13-0, as Alabama is seeking to become the first college football team to finish a perfect 15-0. It is also looking to extend its current overall winning streak to 25 games.
* A clinched spot in the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and although some are suggesting that Alabama may remain at No. 1 or No. 2 in the playoff rankings even with a loss to the Gators, UA is looking to remain in control of its own destiny. And Saban obviously made his feelings about the subject known rather forcefully earlier this week  when he proclaimed, "It's never OK to lose a game."
Certainly the oddsmakers are not buying into the possibility of a Tide loss to the Gators at the Georgia Dome (3 p.m CT, CBS), installing Alabama as an overwhelming 24-point favorite over 8-3 Florida.
But Saban said he is expecting a formidable challenge from a Gator squad coached by his former offensive coordinator at Alabama.
"I think Coach McElwain has really done a good job in his time there and they've gotten better and better each year and certainly won games this year they needed to win so that they'd have this opportunity," he said. "They have one of the best defensive teams in the country. Very good man to man team in the back end, very dominant front seven in terms of their down guys upfront, ability to rush and play on the line of scrimmage. Offensively they've tried to create great balance with their team this year and the ability to run the ball, and they've had a couple of backs that have both contributed to that, but I think (sophomore receiver) Antonio Callaway and (junior receiver) Brandon Powell, the two receivers that they have, are certainly guys that they want to get the ball to that have the ability to make explosive plays, and when they've been able to do that they've been very effective on offense. Always very good on special teams and they have really good specialists, whether it's returners, punter, kicker, they're all very effective and very good, so it's a very challenging game for us."
As Alabama looks to knock off Florida for the conference crown for the second year in a row, with the two teams having met in the title game on eight previous occasions (both programs having won four of those eight meetings), it will be facing a Gator team that ranks dead last in the league in total offense, averaging around 352 yards per game and just over 24 points per contest.
It is also a Gator team, however, that allows only around 14 points and 291 yards per game, including only 133 yards rushing a contest and 158 yards through the air, so there is no real secret that much of the reason for Florida's success is a stop unit led by defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.
"Well, they're very good, and their entire defense is very good, particularly the corners," said Saban. "They play a lot of man to man, and those guys have done a really good job of shutting people down and limiting the options that you have. They have good players at safety and they do a good job of rushing, so this is a really, really good defensive team, and we're going to have to do a great job against them."
Leading that strong defense is redshirt junior defensive back Marcell Harris, who paces the team in tackles with 57, with senior linebacker Jarrad Davis adding 56 and redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone with 53.  Redshirt junior defensive lineman Caleb Brantley and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga led the Gators with 8.5 tackles for loss each and Zuniga has a team-leading five sacks.
The Florida secondary is a particularly strong area for the Gator defense, especially with junior cornerbacks Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor.  Wilson has 28 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, three interceptions and six passes broken up. Tabor also has 28 tackles, a sack, four interceptions and five passes broken up.
Offensively, the main threats for the Gators are sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett and Calloway.
Scarlett paces the Florida ground attack as he has carried the ball 154 times for 778 yards and six touchdowns. He averages just over five yards per carry.
Calloway, the explosive threat for McElwain's team, has hauled in 43 passes for 603 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with a long catch of 78 yards. He is also a dangerous weapon as a returner, with 24 punt returns for 177 yards and three kickoff returns for 97 yards and a TD.
Powell is also a talented weapon at receiver with 34 catches for 313 yards and two TDs.
Redshirt senior quarterback Austin Appleby, making his sixth start in place of the injured Luke Del Rio, has thrown for 964 yards, along with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He has completed 60 percent of his pass attempts.  This includes a 98-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Tyrie Cleveland against LSU on Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge.
Redshirt sophomore placekicker Eddy Pineiro has also proved to be a very important part of the Gator point production as he has converted 18 of his 22 field goal attempts, with a long kick of 54 yards. Redshirt junior Johnny Townsend has punted 56 times for an average of 47.6 yards, with a long boot of 62 yards.
Not many people are giving the Gators much of a chance to stop the Crimson Tide juggernaut, but Florida has talented resources on both sides of the ball.
This is why it is important for Alabama to take a workmanlike approach into the Georgia Dome and start fast against McElwain's team.
Florida struggles mightily on offense on numerous occasions, but its defense is talented and consistent enough to keep the game close for four quarters, especially if Alabama is sloppy offensively and stymies itself with turnovers or poor red zone execution.
In a close game, anything can happen and the threat of weapons such as Callaway can always equate into a long pass play here and there for the Gators or even an explosive play on special teams.
If the Florida offense cannot generate any amount of success, however, on a suffocating Tide defense that has not allowed a touchdown in a month, and help out its stop unit, Alabama may be able to simply wear down the Gators late in the contest and win going away, much like it did in last year's SEC title game, topping McElwain's team 29-15.

2016 SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:

No. 1 Alabama (Visiting team) vs. No. 15 Florida (Home team)
Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 • 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. CT)
Atlanta, Ga. • Georgia Dome (71,500) • CBS  Sports

THE  TEAMS:
Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) is the Western Division Champion and the visiting team, while
Florida (8-3, 6-2 SEC) is the Eastern Division Champion and the home team.

NATIONAL  RANKINGS:
Alabama comes into the game as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in the Associated Press and USA Today polls. Florida is the No. 15th and 16th-ranked team in the nation, respectfully.  

SEC  CHAMPIONSHIP  GAME:
The game, which started in 1992, is in its 25th year.  It was a result of conference expansion, which saw Arkansas and South Carolina become the first members added in SEC history.   Nearly 1.8 million fans have witnessed the pageantry of the game first-hand, with 22 sellouts in its history.  (Only 1993 and 1995 were not). The first two games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham and the game has been played at the Georgia Dome since (1994). This will mark the final SEC Championship Game played at The Georgia Dome.

SEC  CHAMPIONS:
Alabama will be vying for its 26th SEC Championship and third consecutive SEC Championship. Florida is aiming for its ninth SEC Championship and first since 2008. Alabama will be looking to win its fifth SEC Championship under Nick Saban. Jim McElwain is the first coach in SEC history to guide his team to the SEC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons. Alabama is the first undefeated team to play in the SEC Championship Game since LSU in 2011.

TELEVISION COVERAGE:
CBS Sports will televise the game nationally for the 12th  straight year (VERNE LUNDQUIST, Play-by-Play; GARY DANIELSON, Analyst; ALLIE LAFORCE, Sidelines; CRAIG SILVER, Producer).  CBS has aired the game nationally since 2001.  ABC Sports televised the game from 1992-2000.

BIG CROWDS:
The previous 24 SEC Football Championship Games have a total accumulated attendance of 1,791,493.  The 22 games in The Georgia Dome have attracted 1,637,057 fans.  The 74,412 average is over 104 percent of capacity in the 71,500-seat stadium.  Twenty-two of the 24 games have been sold out, including the last 20 consecutive contests. This will be the 23rd consecutive, and final, game in The Georgia Dome. The SEC Championship Game will move to the newly constructed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, located adjacent to The Georgia Dome, in 2017.

2016 SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:

No. 1 Alabama (Visiting team) vs. No. 15 Florida (Home team)
Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 • 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. CT)
Atlanta, Ga. • Georgia Dome (71,500) • CBS  Sports

THE  TEAMS:
Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) is the Western Division Champion and the visiting team, while
Florida (8-3, 6-2 SEC) is the Eastern Division Champion and the home team.

NATIONAL  RANKINGS:
Alabama comes into the game as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in the Associated Press and USA Today polls. Florida is the No. 15th and 16th-ranked team in the nation, respectfully.  

SEC  CHAMPIONSHIP  GAME:
The game, which started in 1992, is in its 25th year.  It was a result of conference expansion, which saw Arkansas and South Carolina become the first members added in SEC history.   Nearly 1.8 million fans have witnessed the pageantry of the game first-hand, with 22 sellouts in its history.  (Only 1993 and 1995 were not). The first two games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham and the game has been played at the Georgia Dome since (1994). This will mark the final SEC Championship Game played at The Georgia Dome.

SEC  CHAMPIONS:
Alabama will be vying for its 26th SEC Championship and third consecutive SEC Championship. Florida is aiming for its ninth SEC Championship and first since 2008. Alabama will be looking to win its fifth SEC Championship under Nick Saban. Jim McElwain is the first coach in SEC history to guide his team to the SEC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons. Alabama is the first undefeated team to play in the SEC Championship Game since LSU in 2011.

TELEVISION COVERAGE:
CBS Sports will televise the game nationally for the 12th  straight year (VERNE LUNDQUIST, Play-by-Play; GARY DANIELSON, Analyst; ALLIE LAFORCE, Sidelines; CRAIG SILVER, Producer).  CBS has aired the game nationally since 2001.  ABC Sports televised the game from 1992-2000.

BIG CROWDS:
The previous 24 SEC Football Championship Games have a total accumulated attendance of 1,791,493.  The 22 games in The Georgia Dome have attracted 1,637,057 fans.  The 74,412 average is over 104 percent of capacity in the 71,500-seat stadium.  Twenty-two of the 24 games have been sold out, including the last 20 consecutive contests. This will be the 23rd consecutive, and final, game in The Georgia Dome. The SEC Championship Game will move to the newly constructed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, located adjacent to The Georgia Dome, in 2017.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 29, 2016

University of Alabama men's basketball coach Avery Johnson recently made the decision to insert freshman forward Braxton Key into the Crimson Tide's starting lineup, obviously hoping the move might translate into more production as well as a boost of energy.
On Tuesday night against the Big South Conference's Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Coleman Coliseum, Key provided all of that and then some for the Tide, helping the host team get off to a big start on the way to a convincing 76-46 victory before a crowd of 11,425.
Alabama improved to 4-2 on the season while Barclay Radebaugh's Bucs fell to 3-3.
"Tonight was one of our better first halves of the year," said Johnson. "A lot of points of emphasis in the game and talking about in practice and in our shootaround, and we executed in those areas and unfortunately they missed some shots and they got some decent looks, but for the most part we had a lot of closed window situations where they didn't have great looks at the basket. We did a nice job in transition and we didn't get in the bonus early like we normally do so we had a lot of good and consistent patterns of execution on both ends of the floor and I'm proud of the way our guys responded after the way we played on this last road trip (with two games in Las Vegas against Valparaiso and St. Louis)."
Key, sparking the Tide early and often, led Alabama with 14 points, including two 3-pointers, and also added six boards, three assists and two blocks.
"He's playing like a high-level player," said Johnson about the Charlotte, N.C. native. "He's a guy that we can use at three or four and we can move him to two. He can pass, dribble and shoot and he shows you every game why we were after him so much since the first day I basically got here in terms of recruiting."
"We know that Braxton is capable of doing that night in and night out," said junior forward Riley Norris. "We saw it every day in practice leading up to the season so it helps us out tremendously."
Sophomore Avery Johnson Jr. and junior Ar’Mond Davis finished the contest with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 28, 2016

Nick Saban's No. 1 University of Alabama football team has once again survived a challenge from its main archrival Auburn in the Iron Bowl,  and the 12-0 Crimson Tide can now squarely focus on the closing stretch of games that will ultimately define its legacy.
That stretch begins Saturday in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in the Georgia Dome as it faces Jim McElwain's No. 15 Florida Gators in a 3 p.m. CT showdown (CBS). It will be the ninth time that the two teams have met in the conference title tilt, with both teams having won four of the previous eight meetings.
Alabama, besides trying to extend its current 24-game winning steak and improve to 13-0, is also seeking its SEC-leading 26th league title. Florida will be looking for its ninth conference crown.
A win by the Crimson Tide against the 8-3 Gators will lock up a spot in the College Football Playoff for a third consecutive season and Alabama would be the only program to qualify for the playoff in its first three years of existence.
Saban on Monday said it is always a special opportunity for his team to be able to play for SEC supremacy, but added that it will not be an easy task to get past a talented Florida team coached by McElwain, his former offensive coordinator at UA.
"This game is really where our focus is and the SEC Championship Game is one of the most competitive environments that I've actually had the opportunity to play in against a very good Florida team that has great tradition and history," he said. "Both teams in this game have tradition and history in this game, and this is the 25th championship game and as I said (Sunday during a conference call), to have (former Florida) Coach (Steve) Spurrier and (former Alabama) Coach (Gene) Stallings there, who played in the first championship game (in 1992) is really sort of something special.
"I think Coach McElwain has really done a good job in his time there and they've gotten better and better each year and certainly won games this year they needed to win so that they'd have this opportunity. They have one of the best defensive teams in the country. Very good man to man team in the back end, very dominant front seven in terms of their down guys upfront, ability to rush and play on the line of scrimmage. Offensively they've tried to create great balance with their team this year and the ability to run the ball, and they've had a couple of backs that have both contributed to that, but I think (sophomore receiver) Antonio Callaway and (junior receiver) Brandon Powell, the two receivers that they have, are certainly guys that they want to get the ball to that have the ability to make explosive plays, and when they've been able to do that they've been very effective on offense. Always very good on special teams and they have really good specialists, whether it's returners, punter, kicker, they're all very effective and very good, so it's a very challenging game for us."

By Stan J. Griffin: November 27, 2016

As Nick Saban's No. 1 Alabama football team has rolled to a 12-0 record, and is again very much in contention for both the Southeastern Conference and College Football Playoff national championships, the Crimson Tide has largely relied on a suffocating defense in 2016 led by linebackers such as Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson.
Saban and UA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt are obviously looking to keep that Tide defense operating as an immovable force well into the future, and Sunday saw the Alabama program land a key target toward meeting that goal.
Alabama gained the commitment of Baton Rouge linebacker Christopher Allen.
He pledged one day after the Tide's win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl to continue his academic pursuits and football career in Tuscaloosa.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 26, 2016

A major storyline entering Saturday's 81st edition of the Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium was the question of whether the prolific running game of Gus Malzahn's No. 13 Auburn Tigers would be able to cope with the stifling defensive unit of Nick Saban's No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, and vice versa.
But it was Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster and the rest of the UA stop unit that shined brightest on this day, even as the UA offense sputtered at times, as the Crimson Tide gained a 30-12 win over the injury-plagued Tigers in front of a loud capacity crowd of 101,821.
With its 24th consecutive victory dating back to the 2015 season, the Crimson Tide improved to 12-0 overall and finished with a perfect 8-0 mark in Southeastern Conference play. The Tigers fell to 8-4 overall and 5-3 in league play.
Alabama gained its third consecutive Iron Bowl victory and has now beaten Auburn in seven of their last nine meetings.
“This was a great win for our team and very proud of our team,” said Saban. “We didn’t always finish (offensively), but really executed a lot better in the second half. This is a game that means a lot to a lot of people in this state, and certainly happy for our supporters, our fans and the people who support the University of Alabama, that they can be happy about the victory that we had today. Auburn’s got a really good team and we knew this was going to be a tough game. I am really proud of the way our guys competed. I am really proud of our seniors for the careers they’ve had here. They’ll have ample opportunities to play, just not here (anymore) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.”
The Alabama defense once again held an opponent without a touchdown, limiting Auburn to 182 total yards and seven first downs. The Crimson Tide also had seven tackles for loss and an interception. The Tigers averaged only four yards per play.
"Our defensive players really play well together," said Saban. "Auburn presents some tough issues and challenges with personnel groups, motions, and formation adjustments, so I thought our guys did a really good job for the most part adjusting to those.
“The defense was put in some really tough spots in this game. I think there was a point in the game where they had only one or two first downs but had nine points because of turnovers, poor punts and poor punt coverage they had a big return on. So, we had some really challenging field positions in this game and our players responded well to it."
Alabama had to punt on its first series of the game, but the JK Scott punt, however, was returned 58 yards by Auburn’s Stephen Roberts to the Alabama 21.
Alabama was able to hold the Tigers, though to a 42-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson, putting Auburn up early 3-0.

WEEK 13 SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE:

THURSDAY, NOV. 24:

LSU (6-4, 4-3 SEC) at Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC), Series: LSU leads, 31-20-3, 6:30 p.m. CT • ESPN, Last: LSU, 19-7 (2015 in Baton Rouge), College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (102,512)

FRIDAY, NOV. 25:

Arkansas (7-4, 3-4 SEC) at Missouri (3-8, 1-6 SEC), Series: MIZ leads, 4-3, 1:30 p.m. CT • CBS, Last: ARK, 28-3 (2015 in Fayetteville), Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field / Memorial Stadium (71,168)

SATURDAY, NOV. 26:

Georgia Tech (7-4) at Georgia (7-4, 4-4 SEC), Series: UGA leads, 65-38-5, 11 a.m. CT • SEC Network, Last: UGA, 13-7 (2015 in Atlanta), Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)

Kentucky (6-5, 4-4 SEC) at Louisville (9-2),  Series: Series tied, 14-14, 11 a.m. CT • ESPN,  Last: UL, 38-24 (2015 at Lexington), Louisville, Ky.  • Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, (55,000)

Mississippi State (4-7, 2-5 SEC) at Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 SEC), Series: UM leads, 63-43-6, 2:30 p.m. CT • SEC Network, Last: UM, 38-27 (2015 at Starkville), Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038) 

Auburn (8-3, 5-2 SEC) at Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC),  Series: UA leads, 44-35-1, 2:30 p.m. CT • CBS, Last: UA, 29-13 (2015 at Auburn), Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)

Tennessee (8-3, 4-3 SEC) at Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5 SEC), Series: UT leads, 75-30-5, 6:30 p.m. CT • SEC Network, Last: UT, 53-28 (2015 at Knoxville),  Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)

South Carolina (6-5, 3-5 SEC) at Clemson (10-1),  Series: CU leads, 67-42-4, 6:30 p.m. CT • ESPN, Last: CU, 37-32 (2015 at Columbia), Clemson, S.C.  • Memorial Stadium (81,500)

Florida (8-2, 6-2 SEC) at Florida State (8-3), Series: UF leads, 34-24-2, 7 p.m. CT • ABC,  Last: FSU, 27-2 (2015 at Gainesville), Tallahassee, Fla.  • Doak Campbell Stadium, (82,300)


SEC FOOTBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:

OFFENSE:
RAWLEIGH WILLIAMS III, RB, ARKANSAS:
• Became the first non-QB in college football this season to rush for four touchdowns and pass for a touchdown in a game this season.
• Just the fourth player in Arkansas history to run for over 200 yards in an SEC game.
• Set new career-highs for rushing yards and TDs in the first half against Mississippi State with 191 yards and four touchdowns on just eight carries.
• Had a hand in five of Arkansas’ first six touchdowns in the game with four coming on the ground and the fifth coming on a 1-yard TD pass on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 23, 2016

Although the line for Saturday's Iron Bowl showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 13 Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium (2:30 p.m. CT, CBS)  has hovered anywhere between 17 and 20 points, there are several items that point toward a closer game than some observers might expect.
These include an Auburn scoring defense that allows only around 17 points per game, a Tiger rushing defense that is ranked No. 4 in the Southeastern Conference, allowing only about 134 yards per game and an Auburn rushing offense that has been strong all season long, averaging nearly 267 yards per contest.
So there is good talent on both sides of the ball for Gus Malzahn's Tigers (8-3 overall, 5-2 in SEC play), and weapons that cause a host of issues for just about any team, including Nick Saban's top-ranked Crimson Tide squad (11-0 overall, 7-0 in league play).
That is if the Tigers are healthy.
Defensively, Auburn appears to be in good shape physically heading into Saturday's affair, the 81st meeting of the intrastate archrivals, but a major storyline entering the contest is the health of key offensive leaders for the Tigers, including sophomore quarterback Sean White and sophomore tailback Kamryn Pettway.
Malzahn, the fourth-year Auburn coach, has said this week that he expects Pettway to return from a leg injury suffered against Vanderbilt, but has yet to name a starting quarterback for Saturday's contest, meaning there is the possibility of senior Jeremy Johnson starting his second straight game.
There are also injury concerns regarding sophomore H back/tight end Chandler Cox and fellow sophomore running back//receiver Stanton Truitt. So even if all four are able to play against Alabama, all may be at least partially limited in what they are able to do in an actual game situation.
Saban said at his Monday press conference that he and his staff are preparing as if all of Auburn's offensive cogs will playing, and said the game in general will be a mighty challenge for his top-ranked team as it attempts to complete a perfect 12-0 regular season.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 23, 2016

After basically threatening to retire the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honor during her prolific senior season at the University of Alabama, Crimson Tide volleyball standout Krystal Rivers has gained a huge honor from the conference that should really come as no surprise to anyone who follows the college game. 
After leading the SEC and ranking among the top five nationally in kills and points all season, Rivers has been tabbed the SEC Player of the Year, becoming the first Crimson Tide player to receive the prestigious honor.
Rivers was also named the Scholar-Athlete of the Year while teammate Hayley McSparin was named to the All-Freshman team.
Rivers is the first player in program history to be named SEC Player of the Year and the second to earn Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors after the first league award was given to Erin Price in 2003. Rivers is the first player in SEC history to earn both Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the year in the same season.
She also joins Erin Heffner (2001-04) as the only four time All-SEC honorees at Alabama. McSparin’s All-Freshman accolade is the fifth in program history and third in the last four seasons, joining Rivers (2013) and Kat Hutson (2014).
“It’s very rewarding to see someone like Krystal who works so hard for her career as a student-athlete and volleyball player be recognized and rewarded for those efforts,” UA head coach Ed Allen said. “She arrived here at Alabama as a walk-on with an academic scholarship and is now the first player in SEC history to win both awards in the same season.”

By Stan J. Griffin: November 22, 2016

Avery Johnson's University of Alabama basketball team finds itself in Las Vegas as it is participating in the Men Who Speak Up Main Event, and it took on the Valparaiso Crusaders Monday night in the "heavyweight division" of the tournament.
Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, those Crusaders were able to put Alabama on the ropes late, and the Tide could not recover, falling 68-60 to drop to 2-2 on the season.
“It was a tough, hard-fought game,”  Johnson said. “We didn’t get off to a good start.  And because we didn’t get off to a good start, they kind of set the tone early. We got a little bit stagnant on offense, we got in the bonus too early when we were on defense. So the aggressor won the game tonight, and the team that played the smartest.”
Alabama, struggling on offense, found itself trailing 17-10 in the first half of play before rallying to grab a lead.
The Crusaders, however, rallied themselves to move back in front by halftime 34-31.
As the Tide continued a scoring drought into the second half, a 6-0 run by the Crusaders put them up 40-34. Alabama, though, scored six in a row itself to tie the score at 40-40 at the 14:23 mark, with that spurt capped by a 3-pointer by Corban Collins.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 21, 2016

Not many people who live in the state of Alabama have to be reminded of the significance of this week, especially for those who are even casual football fans.
It is officially Iron Bowl week, with No. 1 Alabama and No. 15 Auburn set to renew the nation's top college football rivalry Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide team (11-0 overall, 7-0 in Southeastern Conference play) and Gus Malzahn's Tigers (8-3 overall, 5-2 in league play) are set to clash at 2:30 p.m, with CBS televising the 81st meeting of the archrivals.
And while much hoopla and intensity always surrounds the game in general, this game, of course, carries more weight for the top-ranked Alabama team, as all of its major goals are still in play.
This includes an unbeaten 15-0 season, and a repeat of both its SEC and College Football Playoff championships.  Alabama will also be looking for its third straight win over the Tigers, and its 24th consecutive victory overall.
During his press conference Monday, Saban noted that his team has a chance to cement its place as another very special Crimson Tide team with a strong closing stretch of games, but noted that it will not be easy for his squad against a talented and improved Auburn team.
"The focus needs to be on learning from (a sluggish win over Chattanooga this past weekend) in terms of how we can get better and also to move forward and look to the challenge that we have ahead of us, which is really, you know, the legacy of the season relative to what we can accomplish and what we can do, and the meaning of this game that we play against our rival in the state in the Iron Bowl," he said, noting  it will also be Senior Day on Saturday for a group that has compiled an impressive 48-5 record. "It is certainly a lot to look forward to, a lot to prepare for, a lot to get ready for. So that's where our focus needs to be. I think this is one of the greatest rivalry games in the country. I know it means a lot to a lot of people in this state as well as nationally and the competitors in the game.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 19, 2016

The plan was seemingly an obvious one for Nick Saban's No. 1 Alabama football team entering Saturday night's home contest against the Chattanooga Mocs of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Get off to a quick start, build an early big lead, and then devote the rest of the game to polishing up various areas of its overall repertoire while also getting a lot of players into the contest.
And while a largely-lackluster effort, especially in the first half by the Tide, did not allow much room for comfort for UA and perhaps caused a bit of stress with the bundled-up home crowd, Alabama was still able to take a decisive 31-3 victory before a capacity crowd of 101,821 at a frigid Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama with its 23rd straight victory overall, improved to 11-0 on the season while the visiting Mocs fell to 8-3.
“That wasn’t probably our best effort, but I think you have to give the Chattanooga players a lot of credit,” said Saban. “They played hard and they played well and played with a lot of grit and a lot of toughness. We knew this would be a challenge for us at this point in the season to get our guys to play at a high level, even though we wanted to kind of build on the momentum and get everybody’s confidence to where it would be really good going into next week (and a battle against Auburn). But I thought our players responded a little better in the second half and the defense obviously played pretty well, just giving up three points. Offensively we didn’t have a whole lot of consistency and we definitely need to do better. I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned.”
The victory set a record for Saban, who earned his 41st win while directing the nation’s top-ranked team at the Capstone. Saban’s Tide teams have won 41 of 46 games when ranked No. 1. Also, the 46 games coaching the nation’s top-ranked squad ties Saban for that total with Ohio State legend Woody Hayes.
Alabama began its opening possession on the Crimson Tide 23-yard-line, and on the very first play of the game, Jalen Hurts connected with Calvin Ridley on a 23-yard gain. Hurts then ran for 20 to the UTC 34. The UA drive, however, stalled.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 18, 2016

It took a while for Avery Johnson's University of Alabama basketball team to get started offensively Friday night against Ball State in Coleman Coliseum, as both the Crimson Tide and James Whitford's Cardinals went nearly the first five minutes of the contest without scoring a point.
But once Tide senior forward Shannon Hale, junior guard Ar'Mond Davis and company began to find their range, UA was able to settle in and ultimately roll to a 77-59 victory, with 11 players getting in the scoring column.
Hale led the way for Johnson's team as he tallied a game-high 19 points, while also contributing four rebounds, two steals, one assist and a block.  Davis matched his UA career-high 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
Alabama as a team hit 12 treys on the night.
The Tide improved to 2-1 on the young season in the second game of the Las Vegas Main Event while the Cardinals fell to 1-2.
"It was a really good bounce-back win for us tonight,” Johnson said. “One of the things we stressed was defending the three-point line. Teams have been shooting over 40 percent on us from the three-point line. We did a great job of contesting them at the line and closing out help-side defense. We got off to a little bit of a slow start offensively, but our defense was good. Then we got a huge boost from the guys that came off the bench. I am proud of our team.”
The start of the game was rough, as both teams went for a combined 0-of-11 before  then proceeding to go for a combined 9-of-11 after that early dry spell.
Alabama went up early 7-3, with Hale scoring five of those points, before the visitors tied the game at 7-7.
The Tide led only 15-14 when Alabama used a 6-0 spurt to build the advantage to 21-14, and Hale capped that run with a 3-point bomb and by this point he already had tallied 13 points.

Birmingham Post-Herald (BPH) is Birmingham, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

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