Matthews: The Citadel At Alabama....Why?


Mighty Alabama will host The Citadel Saturday noon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama is 10-0, the unanimous No. 1-ranked FBS (major college football) team and coming off consecutive shutout victories over then-ranked LSU and Mississippi State.

The Citadel is an FCS school (a big step below FBS) with a 4-5 record and coming off a 42-27 win over Samford (not Stanford).

The only betting line I could find for this mismatch – and it has since vanished – was Alabama as a 51-point favorite.

The Citadel last beat an SEC team November 21, 2015 (23-22 over South Carolina). The Bulldogs lost 61-3 at ACC Clemson in 2017.

The Citadel ranks seventh in rushing among FCS schools but Alabama has the seventh-best rush defense among FBS schools.

The Citadel has to run a lot because it can’t pass. The Bulldogs are 46-of-101 for 811 yards and 4 TDs throwing the ball this season.

The ESPN Predictor gives The Citadel a .1 percent chance to upset Alabama on Saturday.  Nearly every observer considers those odds extremely generous.

So why play this game? The Citadel is getting paid a reported $500,000 to make the trip and – probably – to become a sacrificial lamb in a glorified scrimmage for Alabama.

A big question is how much Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy favorite Tua Tagovailoa will play. He has a minor right knee injury. Back-up QB Jalen Hurts is coming off minor ankle surgery and probably won’t be available. The Crimson Tide likely could romp with third-string quarterback Mac Jones or Felicity Jones.

Sitting out this game would not hurt Tagovailoa’s Heisman hopes. He’s a huge favorite. It would be prudent to rest him for far more difficult subsequent assignments against Auburn and Georgia.  It’s up to coach Nick Saban and he loves to show off his powerhouse team at every opportunity.

Don’t feel too sorry for the players on The Citadel. They enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to play before a huge live crowd and a national TV audience.

Interestingly, on Monday night, The Citadel basketball team was the bully. It crushed Christian University 148-75. It was the most points scored in a game by a Division-I team since November 29, 2010, when VMI crushed Central Pennsylvania 151-92. That VMI team was coached by current Citadel basketball coach Duggar Baucom. I assumeDuggar will not be giving a pre-game pep talk to the Bulldogs football team on Saturday morning. He might scare them more than inspire them.


The following numbers tell us why Todd Gurley is the NFL’s most versatile offensive player and how much the Pittsburgh Steelers should be missing holdout Le’Veon Bell but haven’t yet thanks to the play of second-year Steelers savior James Conner:

Yards from scrimmage leaders 2018:

1-Todd Gurley LA Rams: 10- games; 1,390 yards (988 rush + 402 receiving)

2-James Conner Pittsburgh: 9 games: 1,158 yards (771 + 387)

3-Saquon Barkley NYGiants: 9 games: 1,116 yards (586 + 530)

4-Ezekiel Elliott Dallas: 9 games: 1,093 yards (831 + 262)

5-Kareem Hunt KC: 10 games: 1,093 yards (831 + 362)

Others include:

56-LeSean McCoy Buffalo: 9 games: 571 yards (380 + 191

Bottom-Le’Veon Bell Pittsburgh AWOL: 0 games: 0 yards (0 + 0).

Yards from scrimmage leaders 2017:

1-Todd Gurley LA Rams: 15 games: 2,093 yards (1,305+ 788)

2-Le’Veon Bell Pittsburgh: 15 games: 1,946 yards (1,291 + 855)

3-Kareem Hunt KC: 16 games: 1,782 yards (1,327 + 455)

4-LeSean McCoy Buffalo: 16 games: 1,586 (1,138 + 448)

5-Melvin Gordon LA Chargers: 16 games: 1,581 yards (1,105 + 476).


The Seattle Seahawks are one of the NFL’s toughest teams at home. The Green Bay Packers are winless (0-4) on the road this season.

Seattle’s Russell Wilson is one of few quarterbacks as elusive as Aaron Rodgers and almost always plays very well at CenturyLink Field.

My “Best Bet”: SEATTLE (-2 ½) 27, Green Bay 21.


If I were taking a trip to Las Vegas this winter, I’d visit a legal sports book and make a healthy  futures wager on the Los Angeles Dodgers to win at least 95 games in the regular season, win the National League East, win the NLDS, win the NLCS and win the World Series.

Three reasons:

1-The Dodgers will enter spring training with eight quality starting pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Julio Urias, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Ross Stripling.

2-Shortstop Corey Seager will be back after Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers really missed him lasy season.

3-Manager Dave Roberts has to be luckier than he was in the 2018 World Series, when most the buttons he pushed blew up in his face.


Recommended reading: “The Radical Confidence of Patrick Mahomes”, by Seth Wickersham, featured in ESPN The Magazine for November and ESPN  on-line Wednesday. Find out about this amazing arm (“Most human can’t do that. He is the rarest of quarterbacks, capable of making the impossible look routine”) and wonder why the Kansas City Chiefs and coach Andy Reid were the only ones in the NFL who recognized how special it is. He’s the favorite for NFL MVP in his second pro season. The Buffalo Bills traded the No. 10 pick in the 2017 NFL draft to Kansas City. The Chiefs used it to select Mahomes. And the Bills are praying that Josh Allen becomes their “franchise” quarterback. REPEAT: I realize that Mahomes would not be a MVP candidate if he were playing for the Bills this season. But Buffalo wouldn’t be 3-7.

A clue that offense is much more important than defense in the current NFL: The top 10 teams in total offense have a combined 61-30-2 record. The top 10 teams in total defense are a combined 44-46-2. The only team in the top 10 on both total offense (4th) and total defense (8th) is Pittsburgh. Here’s an oddity: The top-ranked teams in total defense and total defense have a combined 6-13 record: Tampa Bay 3-6 and Buffalo 3-7.

Former Rochester Knighthawks superstar John Grant Jr, now living with his wife and 8-year-old daughter in the Denver area, has joined the lacrosse coaching staff at Air Force Academy.


Wednesday, November 14

Francisco Lindor 25...Taylor Hall 27...T. Y. Hilton 29...Yasmany Tomas 35...Kyle Orton 36...Xavier Nady 40...Lawyer Malloy 45...David Wesley 48...Dana Stubblefield 48...Lionel Simmons 50...Curt Schilling 52....Aaron Broten 58...Willie Hernandez 63...Jack Sikma 63...Don Lever 66...Mike Livingston 73...Rod Seiling 74. Yanni 64 and Charles, Prince of Wales 70 are invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, November 15

Karl-Anthony Towns 23..Dylan Bundy 26...Trevor Story 26...Lorena Ochoa 37....Cory Redding 38...Pedro Borbon 51...Chris Terreri 54...Otis Armstrong 68...Don Dandridge 71....Larry Cole 72. Ed Asner 89 is invited to the birthday party.


November 14

75 years ago (1943), Sid Luckman threw seven TD passes for the Chicago Bears in a 56-7 victory over the New York Giants...54 years ago (1964), Detroit’s Gordie Howe scored his NHL-record 627th career goal...52 years ago (1966), Muhammad Ali TKOd Cleveland Williams in 3 for the heavyweight title...25 years ago (1993), Don Shula became the winningest coach in NFL history...Dale Earnhardt won the 43rd NASCAR Sprint Cup...4 years ago (2014), driver-trainer Dave Palone had his 16,754th harness driving victory.

November 15

72 years ago (1946), Boston’s Ted Williams won American League MVP...58 years ago (1960), Elgin Baylor of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers scored 71 points against the New York Knicks...57 years ago (1961), Roger Maris of the New York Yankees was Voted American League MVP...38 years ago (1980), Dale Earnhart won the 30th NASCAR Sprint Cup...30 years ago (1988), Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Kirk Gibson won the National League MVP.

Bob Matthews' Column

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