Alabama’s Calvin Ridley: A rebound after 2016?

We know one thing about Alabama’s depth chart: It’s going to be deep. Real. Freaking. Deep.

Everywhere on an offensive line will be players who can catch a ball, run it quicker in pads than most people without a ball, helmet and pads on, and they will weigh about the 250-300lb mark. Running backs will be lightning bolts. Tight ends will be wide receivers.

2016 was meant to be a breakout year for Calvin Ridley – particularly after a freshman year when he had 89 receptions, 1,045 yards and 7 TDs, averaging a tidy 11.7 yards per reception. That was good for 33rd in the Nation, and not bad at all for a freshman start.

For 2015, we thought that this would be another monster year for Ridley. Sure, his quarterback, Jalen Hurts, was new, but the fall in stats was staggering. Ridley went from ‘trusted receiver’ to ‘not particularly trusted receiver’, falling to the 94th receiver overall in NCAA rankings in terms of receiving yards, with ‘just’ 769. His receptions fell to 72, and his average yards per reception dropped to 10.7. The only thing that stayed the same was touchdowns (7).

He also had five attempts as a rusher in 2016, and even scored a touchdown. He had one in 2015.

BIG FACTOR?

For 2015, Ridley was a factor in almost all of his games, getting thrown to at least 6 times in the last four games of the season, and grabbing two touchdowns in the play-off win over Michigan State. While he wasn’t a big factor in the National Championship Game, he put defensive co-ordinators at Clemson off enough that they seemed to forget about OJ Howard as the big tight end had the game of his life as the Crimson Tide battled their way to a National Championship.

In 2016, Ridley had no touchdowns in his last 4 games and was thrown to an average of a smidgeon under 4 times a game (Bearing in mind that he averaged over 6 yards per reception, you could argue that if Lane Kiffin/Steve Sarkasian/Nick Saban had used him more, he would have had even more of an effect on the game).

THIS SEASON

This year, it’ll be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll uses Ridley. Ridley’s got an immensely smooth running action, can blow the doors off defensive backs, and bearing in mind his 6-1, 188lb frame, he’ll probably go to the pros after this year and continue a line of very good NFL receivers. Oh, and you would be surprised to see him in the backfield either, if Daboll’s looking to spice things up!

And what we do know is this: If Ridley’s used like he was in 2015, the SEC defenses in 2017 are going to be very worried indeed!

 

Who’s going to win Alabama vs Washington?

I sorted of jumped around in my seat when I saw that Vegas had narrowed the prediction of Alabama’s margin-of-victory to under two touchdowns before their College Football Play-Off game with Washington in Atlanta.

There are no doubts that Washington’s a good side. Their sole loss of the season – to a USC side that probably would be playing in its place if the Trojans had had any early season form (they were good for about a quarter against Alabama on Opening Saturday!) – wasn’t great, but otherwise, Chris Petersen’s side was effective.

All the odds stack up in Alabama’s favour. It’s defense – Nick Saban’s pride and joy – is the best in the country. Washington will give you a chance, but their secondary feasts on stupid decisions by quarterbacks. They had 19 interceptions in the regular (plus Pac-12 Championship Game) season. Alabama’s defense is downright FREAKY – its linebackers and secondary players seem to average a touchdown and a Pick-6 EVERY SINGLE GAME.

On  the offensive side, Alabama’s offensive line is – as we know – incredible, and everyone from Bo Scarborough – who’s going to battle it out for a Heisman in 2017 to Calvin Ridley to OJ Howard are frigteningly good. Washington has playmaker John Ross who can destoy a mistake-making secondary, but wouldn’t Nick Saban have focused on ways for him NOT TO GET THE BALL?

The question will be, then: Who is the quarterback to avoid those problems. Jake Browning, if we’re honest, hasn’t really been the same since he was torched against USC for two interceptions and safety, while Jalen Hurts has been convincing all season. Of course, there have been moments that he’s given up the odd stupid INT, but with the offensive line as it is, I sincerely doubt that Washington’s going to get the pressure.

PREDICTION: Alabama by 21 and the only reason why it’s that close is that Saban shows respect for Petersen.

And Ohio State vs Clemson is going to be a battle royale between two great teams. If it was on coaches alone, we’d take Urban Meyer every time, but Clemson  has a better quarterback, more talented receivers, and an attacking defense and more’s the case, has got a team that’s been there before. The problem with Clemson is that Dabo Swinney can see his team take a big lead, and then becomes far more conservative, which in fact ended up hurting him in the National Championship and several games this season. It would be wise of him not to do that against the Buckeyes.

PREDICTION: Clemson by 5 in AN INSTANT CLASSIC.