Lance Zierlein's Z-Report

Finally, a good matchup for Alabama

Finally, a good matchup for Alabama
Alabama playing college all-stars would be must-watch. Getty Images

From all of the feedback that I got from Twitter, The Bench, and discussions with people during the week, the only people cheering for Alabama against LSU were Crimson Tide fans and anyone who had bet on Alabama. Is Alabama’s dominance good for college football? Can anyone touch them? The first question is inconsequential and the second question is a resounding “NO!”

Instead, we are all reduced to coming up with hypotheticals to create conversation surrounding competition for Alabama. And you know what? I lead the league in hypothetical discussions and arguments! That’s my jam! So without further delay, let’s throw some hypotheticals together for you to weigh in on.

Alabama vs. an NFL Team

The most popular discussion point when it comes to a dominant college basketball or football team is whether or not that team could beat the worst NBA or NFL team. There is a great chance that you’ve had this discussion with someone in the past and the more popular sentiment is that Alabama would beat the worst NFL team (take your pick of who that is). That sentiment is incorrect.

Sure, Alabama will have plenty of players who get drafted this season and in seasons to come, but NFL rosters are filled with players who were also drafted and who have had the benefits of additional growth through age, dedicated nutrition, and dedicated training. While Alabama has players with NFL size coming out, let’s also remember they have players “who will be drafted” who haven’t finished growing.

These college players also lack the experience that NFL players would have from an Xs and Os standpoint. The NFL game is also faster and more physical. Alabama has younger players who would be at a distinct disadvantage and plenty of players who won’t play for NFL teams as well.

Alabama vs. College All-Stars

Over the weekend, I started thinking about a more interesting scenario for this mythical matchup for Alabama. Instead, I started to dream about a matchup between Alabama and a team of All-Stars from the Pac-12. After racking my brain for what that all-star team might look like, I decided that it would probably be smarter to put together an all-star team from the Big 10.

QB: Dwayne Haskins / Shea Patterson / Trace McSorley

RB: Jonathan Taylor / Mike Webber

OL: A mixture of Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Iowa

Pass Rush: Rashan Gary, all of Ohio State

I could go on and on putting a team together, but as you can see, this team would be loaded with early round picks and their depth would be far superior to Alabama’s - at least I think. I might be wrong considering how Alabama just reloads without even blinking an eye.

So let’s do this…. Let’s forget the entire College Football Playoffs for this season. We know how this is going to end for any team that goes up against Alabama. If you have a good defense, you don’t have enough offense to stick with Tua and the boys. If you have a good offense (Kyler Murray, anyone?), you don’t have enough defense to fade the the Alabama offensive onslaught. I promise that an “Alabama vs. All-Stars” matchup would be an incredible spectacle. The ratings would be off the charts. The build-up would be incredible. The trash-talking would be unmatched!

LEEEETTTTTTSSSSS GOOOOOOOO!!!!!

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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