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Trickle Down Economics and Pigskin Prognostication

Week One - Bama v/s Clemson

Member commentary by Big_Fan

By now the term “trickle down economics” should be familiar to most Americans. The economic principle operates under the premise that when the employers have more cash, the wealth will “trickle down” to their employees; this same premise is in operation today in college football. The advances in sports nutrition and weight training that were once the sole property of the professional ranks has found its way into high schools around the country. A mediocre high school team of 2008 would likely take the best teams of 20 years ago out behind the woodshed. My own AHSAA 3A high school team is a good example of what would not work in 2008. On the way to a perfect 10-0 season and a three game run into the playoffs, our offense averaged around 40 points per game and defense posted five shutouts - it was a powerhouse program that posted over fifty victories in five seasons. During that time we had a number of players move on to division II football, and one or two D1A signees who never made an impact at that level. Our starting offensive line averaged less than two hundred pounds per man, yet we had two tailbacks rush for two-thousand yards in an offense that utilized trap blocking and a lot of pulling. While we had a number of players with squat and dead lift numbers that were respectable, it was nothing like what is seen on high school campuses today, and our 12-0 team would be lucky to post a .500 record in 2008.

In 2008, whey protein, creatine, nitric oxide accelerators, and other nutritional supplements, combined with more advanced workout routines - has pushed young players to the limits of what the human body can attain. High school football has become more competitive and many players are being developed to an advanced state at a much earlier age. Top wide receiver prospect Julio Jones was bench pressing close to 400 pounds when he stepped on Alabama’s campus the first day - staggering considering that most linemen coming out of high school were benching below 300 pounds just a decade ago. When Franchione took over the Alabama job in 2001, it was reported that there were less than a dozen players matching the numbers Julio posted at his first workout.

The result of advanced player development in high school when combined with the 85 scholarship limit is a level of parity that is astonishing. Teams who could have once started their junior varsity against lesser opponents are now one or two injuries (or suspensions) away from losing to those teams. The recruiting argument that “star ratings” hold little meaning is not entirely accurate, however the gap between what makes a player a five star prospect instead of a three star prospect is becoming increasingly slim (though the difference in one and five is wider). Appalachian State was the cream of the crop in the Championship subdivision last season, yet even the D1AA champion would have been routed by depleted Michigan team just a decade ago. Louisiana Monroe is a name that most Bama fans would love to forget after the Warhawks embarrassed the Crimson Tide on their home field in 2007, in large part due to the absence of just five players. Because of parity caused by the trickle down economy of high school football, these upsets are becoming increasingly common...which brings us to the Alabama v/s Clemson game being played in the Georgia Dome.

Clemson is being touted as the favorite to win the ACC in 2008. Offensively, they feature runningback James Davis, a three year starter needing less than 900 yards to become Clemson’s all-time rushing leader. The offense is lead by QB Cullen Harper, the number four ranked QB in the nation according to Phil Steel, and one of Athlon’s picks as a pre-season Heisman candidate. Their receiving corp is solid - if not spectacular, with Jacoby Ford being one of the fastest players in NCAA football. Clemson’s primary concerns on offense are on the line, where they are in a complete rebuilding mode and are not sure what to expect.

Alabama’s defense looks to be improved up front. The addition of JUCO transfer Terrance Cody, allowing incumbent nose tackle Lorenzo Washington to move back to his more natural end position bodes well for the defensive line, while lineman Brandon Deaderick has seven starts under his belt, Bobby Greenwood has five, McCullough, Talbert, and Luther Davis have all seen playing time. Some positions and players (such as Brandon Fanney) may not be entirely settled depending upon competition and need, yet the defensive line appears to have a bit more depth than Alabama has had in some time.

The linebacker situation at the Capstone has been well hashed, both in the media and on message boards. It appears that the linebacking corp will be Ro McClain, talented Freshman Don'ta Hightower, and some other new faces. There is talent, but it is young and/or inexperienced - not a good thing when matching up against an offense like Clemson’s. The saving grace may be the lack of experience on the OL of Clemson. Offenses are invariably behind defenses early in the season, and Alabama’s front is likely good enough to disrupt the Clemson backfield on a regular basis. Even with what some call the best runningback duo in division one, Clemson will have a hard time finding lanes if their line doesn't jell in record time. The key to controlling Clemson's offense may end up being "stop the screens and short passing game." The young backers will need to grow up in a hurry.
Defensive pressure up front will go a long way toward protecting the secondary - which will be solid, but young in spots.

On defense, the Tigers present one of the best fronts anywhere. With the recent loss of star DT Rashaad Jackson to a season ending injury, Clemson’s depth is visible as they will plug in another great player. Linemen Jason Cumbie and Brandon Thompson have broken hands and will both be playing in casts - not the end of the world, but it will affect their ability to wrap up against Coffee and Ingram, and it will hurt their technique against blockers. Clemson has some of the same question marks as Alabama at LB, but their secondary is possibly the best in the ACC.

Clemson’s strength will be matched against what is perceived by many to be the strength of the 2008 Alabama team - the offensive line. With all-sec pick Antoine Caldwell, and all-world left tackle Andre Smith, Alabama will present a formidable task for the defensive front of Clemson. The Achilles of Alabama in 2007 was lack of depth that plagued the offense during the suspension of “the textbook five,” but in the first game of the season depth will not be a concern. Unlike the five game skid of 2007, Bama has a stable of runningbacks who are capable, and the young receiving corp looks to be the most physically talented group Alabama has had since 1994. Going into this weekend, Alabama has had a remarkable run of injury free practices and it should pay off.

Both teams have solid return games, but I would give the overall edge in special teams to Alabama due to its kicking and coverage teams. Both teams have proven return men, with Clemson having the edge in speed.

The question in picking this game becomes one of analyzing the trickle down positions. Are the players at Alabama’s weak spots going to be good enough to play winning football, or are the players at Clemson’s weak spots better?

There is an old school of thought regarding football - it is won or lost in the trenches. Clemson has more depth at the defensive line spot than Alabama does, but those two units don’t play each other. With Alabama’s experience in the offensive backfield and its strong offensive line, Clemson will be hard pressed to force a lot of three and outs. Clemson’s secondary is good enough to minimize the explosive plays, but look for the offensive line of Alabama to protect Wilson and the Bama offense to wear the Tiger defense down.

When Clemson has the ball, they will face a defensive front that may not be as good as their own, but they will have a difficult time keeping the Alabama defense out of the backfield. When approached with the question "how can opposing blockers stop Terrence Cody?" All SEC center Antoine McClain replied "Maybe with a gun." Coming from Caldwell, that statement carries meaning. Clemson will likely have more than one explosive play because of their outstanding skill players, but with their questions on the offensive line, they may have difficulty sustaining long drives.

I see two possibilities for this game.

The game could come down to special teams and a few possession plays - in both cases I like Alabama. Leigh Tiffin and Javier Arenas will make their presence known on special teams, and Alabama’s young receiving corp out jumps Clemson’s veteran secondary en-route to a 27-21 Alabama victory to open the season.

The other scenario has Clemson's OL being worse off than is known. Offensive lines are like jigsaw puzzles - they take time to put together and every piece has to fit just right. It is likely that a first game will find pieces still out of place and ill fitting. Even a high caliber defense cannot win games if the offense goes three and out almost every series. If that happens, Alabama may shock the prognosticators with a decisive win.

Finally, there is the Saban factor. The players appear to be buying into his system, and the strength and conditioning is the best that it has been since Pollard was here with Franchione. Lack of talent and depth is forcing Bama to play some young players who might ordinarily be redshirted, but these are elite prospects from Saban's #1 ranked class. The star rating was not devised to indicate how good a player could become - the old definition was based on how the player could contribute:

* = Project
** = Junior Starter
*** = Sophomore starter
**** = Start as a Freshman/RS Freshman
***** = Good enough to play now

When Alabama lines up with Freshman players from the 2008 signing class starting, ability is not lacking. What is lacking is experience. How they perform will be a testament or indictment of the current state of High School football, and Trickle Down Economics of College Football; That will go a long way in determining if Saturday night is Granada or the Contra affair. Hopefully it is the former - Saban doesn't have Reagan's whit.
Thanks for taking the time to put that together Big_Fan.

As always, anyone interested in writing a piece please let us know. We love featuring our members' thoughts and opinions on the site.
TerryP said:
Good read Big_Fan.


I just kind of threw it together. One of my church member's grandchildren (a 3 year old boy) was playing in the yard while his dad mowed the grass. He ran up behind his dad and slipped down, causing him to slide under the riding lawn mower and into the blades - so I spent much of the past few days on the phone or on the road to the hospital. Poor kid lost his leg just below the knee and suffered some other damage. He has a long road ahead. His name is Blake if you want to remember him in prayer.

The grandparents are strong in faith and handling it as well as possible. The parents are not...the dad is having a really hard time. Again, prayer is appreciated. The boy will recover - kids are resilient...but I know that the dad is replaying it over and over in his head and it is taking a toll.

Glad that I could give something back with the article, instead of just taking away.

By the way Terry...did you know that Julio is starting?
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