Nick Saban and Alabama continue to roll. Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Alabama dispatches LSU
The only people who thought LSU had a chance to win Saturday night were fans of LSU. They showed up strong inside and outside of Tiger Stadium and with good reason if you’re a...lets just say exuberant(delusional) fan. Their favorite team was ranked 3rd in the first College Football Playoff poll and had already beaten a Top 5 Georgia team in Death Valley earlier this season. Tigers fans had dreams of ending their losing streak to Alabama and Nick Saban as LSU hadn’t beat the Crimson Tide since 2011. Unfortunately, Georgia isn’t Alabama and Jake Fromm isn’t Tua Tagovailoa. There are no positives to take away from getting shut out 29-0 at home. For all the anticipation going into the the game the gulf between the two SEC West rivals appears as large as ever. LSU coach Ed Orgeron says he needs better players on his offensive and defensive fronts to compete with Alabama. While that may be true, the difference in quarterback play can’t be overlooked. LSU has been deficient at the position for almost a decade. With a potential Heisman winner playing the position for Alabama, the lack of productivity for LSU at the position is only exacerbated. Great quarterback play beats the Tide. You are never going to out-recruit them in the trenches. Find that special one at quarterback LSU. It is the only chance you’ve got.
Closing out games remains a problem for the Aggies
The early season optimism from of all things playing Clemson to two points and beating Kentucky has evaporated for Texas A&M. In the last two weeks, themes that consistently plagued Kevin Sumlin’s tenure at Texas A&M have re-emerged. The Aggies can’t close teams out. The inability to defend a 3rd and 21 against Mississippi State deep in Bulldogs territory in the fourth quarter changed the complexion of that game. At the time it was a one-point game in Starkville. Jimbo Fisher’s team went on to lose that game by two scores. The misery didn’t end there. Leading by ten points in the fourth quarter over a scuffling Auburn team this past Saturday, Texas A&M missed a field goal, threw an interception and allowed a huge punt return. All three of those things contributed to a devastating loss that dropped the Aggies to 5-4. Losing to Alabama and LSU had come to be expected during Sumlin’s time in Aggieland. Getting beat by the likes of the Mississippi schools and Auburn drastically changed the complexion of Sumlin’s final seasons in College Station and eventually led to his dismissal. Fisher has all the job security in the world. You just don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the guy who you replaced. A loss to Ole Miss on Saturday would mean paying Fisher about $7.5 million a year resulted in not much changing on the field for the Aggies.
College Football Playoff Game of the Week
10 Ohio State vs 18 Michigan State
The Buckeyes need to be impressive if they have any chance of making people forget about the ass kicking Iowa gave them. Somehow the committee thinks a very average Michigan State team deserves a top-20 ranking. A win for Ohio State over a “quality” opponent keeps them in the race for a playoff spot. A matchup with No. 4 Michigan in The Horseshoe is looming.
Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.
Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.
The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.
“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”
With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.
“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”
Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.
A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.
MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.
“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”
Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.
Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.
“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”
While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.
“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”