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Tua’s Tuneup: Citadel Next For Top-Ranked Tide Before SEC Title Game

What do The Citadel and the University of Massachusetts have in common as it relates to college football?

You’ll just have to keeping reading along as Tiebreaker.com once again echoes the nation’s praise of the Crimson Tide, the top team in the nation.

Alabama

Kevin C. Cox / Getty

Alabama

The Crimson Tide plays The Citadel this week and then takes a week off before the SEC championship game against Georgia. You likely are wondering the same thing we are: What is The Citadel doing on Alabama’s schedule? And should this be considered a military exercise?

The Bulldogs, who are coming off games against Western Carolina and Samford (not Stanford), are only eight-touchdown underdogs because the game will be just 60 minutes long.

No wonder Alabama gets criticized for its tendency to schedule less-than-stressful non-conference games. The nation’s No. 1 team has essentially two weeks off to prepare for the SEC Championship game on Dec. 1.

Nick Saban was asked this week if he would sit Tua Tagovailoa, who has been banged up for over a month. Even Jalen Hurts, his veteran backup, has been missed the last two games with a bad ankle. But Saban said Tua would play. But he didn’t say for how long.

We’ve been talking all season about the strength of The Tide’s offense. But over the last month, its defense has been the real talking point. It has shut out LSU and Mississippi State in consecutive weeks, an accomplishment which encouraged the athletic department’s website to create a “No Score November” initiative.

Imagine what The Citadel must think about that?

Since its ragged performance against Arkansas (172 yards rushing), The Tide has allowed an average of 208.8 yards and 7.6 points against Missouri, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State. It’s defense has picked up 17 sacks.

We dare you to take The Citadel and the points.

Clemson

Omar Rawlings / Getty

Clemson

The nation – excluding Ann Arbor, South Bend and Norman, Okla. – is getting pumped for a possible Clemson-Alabama national championship game. The Tigers have won their last five games by at least 20.

Last week, they proved they can prowl in the cold by taking down Boston College by 20 in 38-degree chill. It wasn’t Clemson’s offense at its mauling best, by it was an important win because it proved its defense can win games, too.

The Tigers held BC’s standout halfback, AJ Dillion, to only 39 yards,  his worst game of the season. And the Eagles managed only 113 total yards, eight first and did not score on offense.

It’s now very clear Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney knew exactly what he was doing be promoting freshman QB Trevor Lawrence ahead of veteran Kelly Bryant. Lawrence has been the bomb.

“I know the Lord has blessed me to do this thing and to be confident in that,” Lawrence said this week. “There’s nothing I feel like I can’t do in certain situations. I’m just building my confidence.”

The Tigers close out their regular season hosting Duke and South Carolina prior to the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 1.

Notre Dame

The Irish will have QB Ian Book back when they play No. 12 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. He missed last week’s home game against Florida State with a rib injury. But this was not your usual Seminoles side – ND crushed them 42-13.

Brandon Wimbush, whose job Book took, filled in quite nicely, throwing three TD passes and rushing for another 68. If Book gets hurt again, the Irish will be in competent hands. But the Irish obviously want the nation’s leader in completion rate (74.5) steady on his feet as it closes things out against the Orange and USC.

The Irish now have won at least 10 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1991-93. And that’s a very long time ago, especially for one of the sport’s dynastic programs.

Syracuse (8-2) is in the midst of its own great season and will have a large and loud fan base in The Bronx. The program hasn’t won at least 10 games in 17 seasons. Lucky for the Orange that Notre Dame moved the game to New York in its effort to show off its program in major markets.

Notre Dame’s offense does have more in its arsenal. Dexter Williams gained 202 yards with two TDS against FSU, an added bonus considering he missed the first four games.

By the way, if you were around in 1963, you might remember Syracuse beat Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. Do you think that matters?

Michigan

Frankly, we are rooting for Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines to move past Indiana on Saturday and then Ohio State and get seeded in the Final Four. That would fun considering how many Michigan alums wanted his butt fired after losing to ND in the opener.

Michigan toyed with Rutgers last week. It beat the Scarlet Knights by 35 after pounding them 78-0 in 2016. By the way, what the heck is Rutgers doing in the Big Ten? Sure, the nation’s top prospects would rather play in Piscataway, N.J., than Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State. Right?

But back to the Wolverines: They have a nice QB, as well. Shea Patterson, who came to Michigan from Ole Miss, threw for 260 yards and three TDs in the rout. He hasn’t been picked off in his last 105 attempts and has thrown only three all season.

“From the first game he played here, it was really evident. … that there’s not a lot of times where (a pass) could have got intercepted,” said Harbaugh, who was a Michigan and NFL QB.a

If Patterson can’t beat you, it’s a good bet his defense can. Michigan has  a chance to become the first FBS team since Alabama in 2011 to yield an average of 200 or fewer yards in conference games.

Georgia

Don’t think for a minute Alabama is the only SEC team in the business of scheduling a soft non-conference touch at the end of a tough regular season.

Georgia plays UMass in Athens on Saturday before its annual battle with Georgia Tech. What do we know about the Minutemen (4-7)? Well, they are led by Mark Whipple, who helped develop Ben Roethlisberger as this QB coach during his first three seasons with the Steelers.

Other than that? They beat Duquesne, Charlotte, UConn and Liberty. The Minutemen average 8.7 yards per pass attempt and 299.1 passing yards.

So this seems like a tough match for the Bulldogs. We’re joking, folks. We promise.

 

 

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