Any Given Saturday Extra, Week 14: Underappreciated Blake Sims Is Alabama’s Big Hero 6

The thin crimson line Blake Sims has walked on during his Alabama career has been unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years from a dual-threat quarterback rewriting record books for a program that’s been synonymous with producing game managers in bulk, who has been so vital to a championship team’s success and who’s second to Marcus Mariota in Total QBR. But that hasn’t stopped observers such as AJ McCarron and Paul Finebaum from belittling his performances.

It's nothing new for Sims. The disrespect began when he was prep school starter at Cass High in Gainesville, Georgia and a coach told him he was "nothing more than a juco quarterback."

Jake Coker was booked as the starter for this season before he’d even transferred from Florida State. Conversely, Sims was considered to be the canned tuna amid a lobster dinner. Last season, I brought up Sims to an Alabama fan, who all but dismissed the potential of him replacing McCarron.

Sims’ ascension began when the coach who recruited him to Tennessee was hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

Kiffin believed enough in Sims that when he took the USC job a day after an in-home visit with Sims, he asked Blake to join him on the West Coast. Sims declined and waited his turn while four and five-star quarterbacks began accumulating behind McCarron.

Since the watershed Florida game in which he threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns, Sims has torn it up and the Coker conversation died down. The biggest pockmark on his resume was his critical interception on Bama’s final possession against Ole Miss.

Sims has all the traits of a Malzahn quarterback and naturally he used those skills to trounce Alabama’s most hated rival.

However, it was his arm that got him in so much trouble against Auburn’s porous pass defense that Coker was ordered to start warming up on the sideline.

After throwing his fourth pick in the second half, Sims threw just two incompletions, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another on Alabama’s next four drives.

However, in the postgame Sims summed up what’s become a theme for him this season.

"Every week, they let me know what I did negative. They really don't tell me what I did good," Sims said through a grin. "It sounds bad, but it's good because you want them kind of coaches because they keep you on your Ps and Qs and make you the best. When crunch time comes, you're able to execute the right way."



Jameis Winston has a little Happy Gilmore in him. He's volatile,nearlybeen kicked off the tour team and can hit a few bogeys, but he makes up for his mistakes by the end. These Gators may have held the Gators to a season-low, but they weren’t popping and chopping an unsuspecting Winston down in his prime like Chubbs. 

But they did eat the balls he was rifling towards his intended targets. Unfortunately, the Gators continuously swamped themselves in the end zone as three first quarter interceptions only resulted in three field goals.

However, Winston had the last laugh against the Gators and put their heads in a box by converting in the redzone where Muschamp's offenses seemed more afraid of the end zone than Carl Weathers' character was of alligator heads.

The close call only raises even more doubts about the Seminoles’ viability as a playoff participant.

Or it could speak to their unwavering resilience. TCU trailed Kansas for much of the afternoon last week. Oregon needed a late surge on the road to beat an opponent in Washington State that finished with half as many wins needed to become bowl-eligible. This weekend, Texas Tech pushed Baylor to the brink at home. 

However, after repeated instances of Florida State having to pay hero late, it becomes unclear whether they’re bored and playing down or if there’s a real problem. Either way, there are 124 other FBS programs who envy a flawed, but undefeated team.

Winston's 125 yard, four interception, two touchdown performance was the worst of his FSU career. Fortunately,  the combination of true freshman Treon Harris' inability to convert on passing plays, Dalvin Cook's 144 yards of heroic running on 24 carries and the Seminoles domination in the trenches, holding the Gators tailbacks to 113 yards 33 carries that lifted the defending national champions.

Winston’s short-term memory has been crucial. He’s the antithesis of Manning face. When the going gets tough, he doesn’t tense up. FSU is now the first team since UCLA in 2005 to win three games in which it trailed by more than 15 points. The Seminoles now own the smallest average margin of victory for an undefeated team i the last 10 years. Their average of 12.6 points per game is just ahead of the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes’ 14.3 difference. Those Buckeyes were barred from playing in bowl game as a result of Tattoogate sanctions and instead undefeated LSU squared off with 10-1 Alabama in the 2012 BCS National title Game.



Ohio State may feel good about their playoff chances after beating Michigan and then watching Mississippi State go down, but it was a pyric victory for the Buckeyes. JT Barrett may receive a Heisman invitation to New York City, but he also watched the end of The Game from the stands after breaking his ankle and Noah Spence has been declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA.

Barrett's backup is sophomore Cardale Jones, a 6-5,250 pound flamethrower who's is built more like Cam Newton than Brazton Miller or Barrett, but he’s more of a Roethlisberger-type than the typical 1,000 yard rushing quarterback that’s operated the offense under Meyer’s thumb.

Ultimately, those losses were trivialized for Ohio State as the body of missing walk-on defensive tackle Kosta Karageorge was identified on Sunday.

Karageorge's apparent suicide will bring even more attention to the handling of head trauma in football as the walk-on had been compalining for weeks about extreme confusion after suffering several concussions in his athletic career. Once thought to be an issue for affect seasoned pros, the effects of concussions in an athlete so young is extremely disturbing and the results of the examination of Karageorge's brain will only add another reason to discourage parents from allowing their sons to play football. 

Ohio State may not be the only team in playoff contention breaking in a new quarterback in the regular season’s final Saturday. Baylor’s Bryce Petty exited against Texas Tech after suffering a third quarter concussion and the offense stalled. Baylor and teams all across the nation have to be more proactive than ever when it comes to treating head injuries–even if national championships are on the line.



Mississippi State and Ole Miss’ rivalry has been the topic of conversation since Ole Miss beat Bama and put the looming Egg Bowl under a magnifying glass and AGS previously recounted the complicated dynamic involved in the Magnolia State rivalry. However, Ole Miss’ collapse down the stretch meant that Goliath would be playing spoiler to the state’s David.

Mississippi State has a Carlton Complex. Hail State isn’t smaller in campus size or in enrollment than Ole Miss, but in perception and by financial endowment and budget size it’s meager. Mississippi State is the Carlton to Ole Miss’ Will. No matter how carefully they set the chips, fate always seems to favor the Rebels.

That makes the 73 years and counting since their last conference championship even more agitating.

It wasn’t as awe-inspiring as Josh Robinson shedding pesky tacklers with the ease of an electronic mosquito zapper, but Jaylen Walton's Houdini escape and 91-yard scamper capped off a three touchdown quarter for the Rebels.

As morose as Mississippi State feels, they aren’t alone. Ole Miss won emphatically. Undefeated Marshall had its heart ripped out Boise State-style.



The starting quarterbacks for both of the remaining undefeated teams in FBS threw a quartet of interceptions this weekend. Only Winston remained unbeaten. Rakeem Cato’s seven touchdown passes against the nation’s 122nd scoring defense balanced out his touchdown to interception ratio, but couldn’t match the eight thrown by Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty.

Not a single quarterback—not even Trevon Boykin has experienced a surge in production from 2013 to 2014 quite like what Doughty has displayed this season. One year ago, he threw 14 touchdowns and a matching number of interceptions. This season, he slashed his interceptions by four and tossed 30 more touchdowns.

In the wake of Bobby Petrino’s return to Louisville after one season with the Hilltoppers, offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm took the reins and Doughty became his reindeer, charting the course through perilous defenses and shoving coal into their end zone chimneys.

The nation's sixth ranking scoring offense and second-ranked passing attack left an extra surprise in Marshall’s stocking by upsetting the Thundering Herd 67-66 in a triple overtime. What’s even more remarkable is that the Thundering Herd have surrendered more than 18 points just once since their opening week win over Miami (Ohio).

Mississippi State may still play in a gaudy New Years Bowl. For Marshall, it's back to anonymity. 



I was all prepared to discuss California’s Bronze Cub defense when I received an interesting tweet on Sunday afternoon. Nearly two and a half months ago, AGS identified the most depressing image of the season. Somehow the cornerback pictured, freshman Darius Allenworth found it on Twitter over the weekend and was a good sport about his infamous photo.

Like most cornerbacks, he has a necessary survival trait; a short term memory.

It was especially true for Cal cornerbacks who’ve endured the most traumatic season for any secondary in history of college football.

Seven of Cal's games were determined by one possession or less and Anu Solomon's Hail Mary connection with Austin Hill ended up being the difference between California beginning their break early and becoming bowl eligible.

In October, they led UCLA until the final 3:40 and they tied BYU in their season finale until Christian Stewart threw his fifth touchdown of the afternoon with 2:39 remaining.

Their most impressive win of the season, Cal’s bullet-riddled secondary allowed Connor Halliday to throw an NCAA record 734 yards.Dykes has Cal heading in the right direction. But if they want their upward trajectory to continue, they can't get in shootouts with a paper mache bullet proof vest.

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