SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts to the official against the Clemson Tigersin the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Random Thoughts: Overrated Alabama’s similarities to a certain Ohio State team, OSU coaching moves, LeBron vs. Tom Brady and more

After a non-thrilling College Football Playoff championship game to cap a non-thrilling college football season, we’re here with the first edition of Random Thoughts for 2019. 

  • Man, how overrated was Alabama this season? Congrats to the Crimson Tide for looking like garbage against two of the three good teams it faced this season. Let’s never again anoint a team an all-time great before they finish it out. A scout told me before the season Alabama was a year away because of losses on defense, and that appears to have been true. Nick Saban’s defense was not ready for prime time but rarely tested in the offense-challenged SEC. Tua Tagavailoa and the Alabama offense were great when this season dictating the terms but struggled against adversity. Tagovailoa’s lack of pocket presence was stunning to see and made me wonder if the Tide would have benefited from actually facing adversity during the regular season. Hey, that’s life in the long-declining SEC though. 
  • For those reasons above, I am viewing Alabama’s 2018 season a lot like Ohio State’s 2006. Great coach gets a talented quarterback, opens up his offense to take advantage of those weapons and cruises through the regular season untested until the last game of the regular season. They survive that only to get dive-bombed in the championship game by a team actually equipped to expose their defense, something they rarely saw in the regular season. (Of course the playoff semifinals win over Oklahoma is an outlier here.) 
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 08: Quarterback Troy Smith #10 of the Ohio State Buckeyes scrambles with the ball under pressure from Derrick Harvey #91 of the Florida Gators during the 2007 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 8, 2007 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
  • Much like Ohio State 12 years ago, Alabama will probably be back in the championship game again in a year. 
  • That said, I had Clemson as paper Tigers going into the playoff, and obviously I was wrong. Dabo Swinney’s team was magnificent top to bottom in the postseason, led by a true freshman QB, great skill players and a nasty defense (as usual). Clemson is here to stay as a national powerhouse. 
  • The liege waffle is one of the bigger scams I’ve encountered lately. 
  • Greg Mattison coming to Ohio State is pretty fascinating. A close friend of Urban Meyer who worked with Ryan Day for a year under Meyer at Florida, he was a key cog in Michigan’s recovery from the disastrous hiring of Rich Rodriguez a decade ago. He’s excelled as a defensive coordinator in college and the NFL and recruited Ohio well for Michigan over the years, too. 
  • Meanwhile, the juxtaposition of Alex Grinch’s recent career move is pretty interesting. After helping put together the worst defense in Ohio State history (statistically), he moves up to primary defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, where the defense was much worse than Ohio State’s but also not bad enough to keep the Sooners from making the CFP ahead of Ohio State. Weird, huh? There seems to be some debate about how much input Grinch had in Greg Schiano’s scheme (probably not much), but there is no question the struggles of his position group (the safeties) were probably the No. 1 issue preventing Ohio State from making the college football playoff. 
Greg Schiano explains why or why not
  • I like the concept of session IPAs because it concedes there is a fundamental flaw in regular IPAs to which a lot of beer snobs have a blindspot. You know, taste. 
  • Can you believe how many people have terrible tattoos? 
  • At least the first weekend of the NFL playoffs delivered — in spite of the league’s rules. 
  • I’ve always been a strict constructionist when it comes to rules, but NFL refs have changed my mind. Way too many flags on contact that had negligible impact at best in numerous situations. 
  • Every time I see illegal contact called on a defensive back in the NFL I want to throw something. Inevitably it wipes out what looked momentarily like a good defensive play, and often it’s a result of pretty much inconsequential contact earlier in the play — sometimes caused by the receiver basically just running into the DB. 
  • I sort of view Ezekiel Elliott as a rich man’s Emmitt Smith. He’s bigger and more talented than Smith, but they have similar running styles, sliding through creases and maximizing available yards on every run. 
  • I doubt I’ll ever get into MLS, but I can guarantee I won’t as long as they refer to teams in the singular. 
  • Speaking of sports rules: For 20 years no one has preyed on the incompetence of Big Ten basketball officials more effectively than Tom Izzo. His team walked into Value City Arena on Saturday, weathered a strong first half by the Buckeyes and came out on top in a key early Big Ten game that will help establish the Big Ten pecking order. As usual, getting away with more fouls than the opposition was the key to victory for the Spartans, who remain in the Big Ten race while Ohio State appears to be playing for third. Of course that’s still better than expected entering the season, and Chris Holtmann already proved he belongs at this level by signing a great recruiting class in the fall. He’s playing with house money this season. 
  • Seeing the Ahrens boys from Versailles enjoy playing against each other was cool, though. 
  • Imagine how bad the Bengals defense would be if they hadn’t drafted Sam Hubbard? Also wonder how much better it might be if they hadn’t wasted their 2017 first round pick. 
  • The similarities of the careers of LeBron James and Tom Brady (once you get past how they entered their leagues under completely different circumstances) are pretty fascinating. Both are truly great, but their accomplishments have also been propped up quite a bit by lack of competition in their conference. The difference in results (Brady is 5-3 in Super Bowls while James is 3-6 in the NBA Finals) also might be a testament to patience in one’s situation. Neither has enjoyed having the best roster every season, but Brady’s supporting cast has fit him better more often. Of course building a winner in the NFL and NBA is completely different. Brady has been fortunate to play for the No. 1 or 2 coach of all time, but then that’s a benefit of being willing to actually give a damn about what a coach has to say. 

“Random Thoughts” is a semi-regular feature here at blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions and have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to or find us on Twitter or Facebook.

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About the Author

Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox Media Group Ohio since 2016.