Bruce Feldman dropped by CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show on Tuesday – not for an in-studio appearance, but rather, for a phone-in from Ann Arbor while driving to the airport.
Such is life for the Fox Sports and FS1 college football insider.
We’ll get to the Wolverines in a second, but Gottlieb opened by asking Feldman about Alabama. Specifically, what do we make of the report that this could be Nick Saban’s last year in Tuscaloosa?
According to Feldman, not much.
“I actually would prefer not to even give it credence because I just think that report or whatever – it was was just kind of reckless in how it was worded,” Feldman said. “You can never say never on stuff. I would be surprised if he left next year, but who knows? It’s one of those things where you got to be really careful in how you word things. I looked at that. Somebody else had re-tweeted it. I don’t know if it was just a prediction or what it was, but I’m sure Nick Saban was thrilled that somebody just kind of threw out ‘Well, I’m hearing this’ and didn’t qualify any of the sources (or how he got that information). I just thought that was one that you did a double take on. I don’t know. The people I (spoke to about it) were like, ‘Where is this coming from?’”
Alabama is coming off a successful season that ended with a disappointing 42-35 loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The No. 3 Tide once again enter the season with a top-five ranking, but as Feldman explained, their biggest challenge this year won’t be finding a quarterback to replace Blake Sims; it’ll be finding a weapon to replace Amari Cooper.
“To me, that’s the challenge,” Feldman said. “They don’t have Amari Cooper in there as a security blanket. What they do have – and I was there in the spring and got to spend a little time around the program – they have more big, athletic defensive linemen than anybody. They’re going to still be a big problem for people on defense because they’re really good. Their offensive line is going to be much improved from what I’ve heard from inside the program. And they got Derrick Henry who is just a beast of a tailback, so there’s a lot for Lane Kiffin to work with. I think ultimately the question is do they have a guy on 3rd-and-8 they feel comfortable with completing passes – and where do they go to with the ball?”
Alabama, which opens against No. 20 Wisconsin this Saturday in Dallas, doesn’t have much time to figure it out.
Neither do the aforementioned Wolverines, who open Thursday at Utah. Feldman anticipates a “big, uphill climb” for Michigan, which is yet to name a starting quarterback between Jake Rudock and Shane Morris.
While Feldman thinks the Wolverines could win eight games this year, he believes it will be a couple of seasons before they are legitimately competing for a Big Ten title.
“Three years,” Feldman said. “Right now, I think Michigan is capable of competing with all but two of the Big Ten programs. The problem is, Ohio State is loaded more than any other program in the country. I talked to a couple NFL scouts who were down there and they just raved about (all these sophomores and redshirt freshmen). So I think it’s at least two or three years before they’re close to being ready to challenge Ohio State.”
If past is prologue, however, Michigan fans have a lot to be excited about.
“Jim Harbaugh took over arguably the worst Power 5 team going at Stanford and he turned them into a powerhouse and the most physical team on the West Coast in a couple of years – and he upset USC right off the bat,” Feldman said. “He went right at the elite of the elite – Pete Carroll’s program – and took them down. So Jim Harbaugh knows exactly what he’s doing.”