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Jeremy Fowler: ‘Alabama Going To Go With Two-QB Audition’

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Nick Saban and Blake Sims (Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Nick Saban and Blake Sims (Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After Alabama beat West Virginia, 33-23, in its season-opener on Saturday, Nick Saban told members of media that they have to concede that Lane Kiffin is a heck of a football coach.

Really? Why?

“I don’t know if he’s trying to convince himself (or) if he’s trying to convince the media or maybe his team – or maybe it’s all three,” CBSSports.com college football writer Jeremy Fowler said on The John Feinstein Show. “But he just is going to go to the fences with this guy. They do share the same agent, so I think they have something in common and that’s why they’ve always had a good relationship. But to Lane Kiffin’s credit, he did call a pretty good game the other day, but that’s one game – and he’s obviously had his problems as a head coach.”

Yes, yes he has. But if Alabama scores 33 points every time out, Kiffin will avoid Saban’s dog house. The Tide displayed great balance Saturday, with Blake Sims throwing for 250 yards and rushing for 42 more. T.J. Yeldon (23 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns) and Derrick Henry (17 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown) were also impressive.

But Sims, a senior, is by no means A.J. McCarron. In fact, Fowler expects Jacob Coker to get some playing time this Saturday against Florida Atlantic.

“They’re probably going to go to more of a two-quarterback audition this (weekend),” Fowler said. “West Virginia was a tricky game they had to win, and it was obvious they came to play the other day. They needed a quarterback like Blake Sims that had been in the system, that could scramble a little bit and avoid sacks when they need it. He’s an athletic quarterback that would be perfect for a different offense, but Saban and Kiffin run this traditional pro-style set.”

Fowler asked Saban is he’d consider going to a no-huddle, hurry-up offense to better accommodate Sims’ skill set, and Saban is apparently open to the idea.

My, how ironic.

“The very thing that Nick Saban has despised in the past – or at least that’s the perception – (is something) that he’s going to try to actually embrace now,” Fowler said.

West Virginia, meanwhile, played much better than virtually anyone expected Saturday, staying within a touchdown of Alabama in the fourth quarter. What do we make of head coach Dana Holgorsen, who has gone from 10-3 to 7-6 to 4-8 in his three years at West Virginia? Does Saturday’s strong effort prove that the program has turned the corner?

“The verdict is still out,” Fowler said. “You would think he’d have to at least go to a bowl game to keep his job. Oliver Luck, the athletic director, is the one who pushed for him. He hired him. And ADs, with their hand-picked guys, generally want to give them the benefit of the doubt. As long as they show progress, I would expect him to keep his job.”

“But the whole mastermind thing is thrown around a lot,” Fowler continued. “It’s hard to figure out – because when (Holgorsen) had Geno Smith, he looked pretty darn smart. But then when he had three different quarterbacks last year and none of them could get it done, he didn’t look very smart.”

It’s also tough to win – especially consistently, especially against elite programs – when you’re an offensive-minded team running a pass-happy system.

“Does that translate to wins? I don’t know,” Fowler said. “It’s one thing to play Alabama close. It’s another thing to win those games.”

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