After a dominant win against Texas A&M, Alabama has taken the lead over Mississippi State and Florida State in Bovada's 2014 College Football Playoff title odds. Before you freak out about a 1-loss, up-and-down Tide team taking that top spot on the board, remember these things:
1) As you'll see in the table below, there is not much separation at the top. Alabama, Mississippi State, Florida State, Ole Miss, Oregon and Georgia are all clustered near the top.
2) Remember that betting odds not only reflect the opinion of the oddsmakers but also public action. Alabama is a team the public loves to bet, and Bovada might have seen a rush of action following the Tide's 59-0 dismantling of Texas A&M.
Both Austin Shepherd (knee/ankle) and Ryan Kelly (knee) received first-team snaps with the offensive line, but so did their respective backups. Grant Hill picked up some work with the first group at right tackle while Bradley Bozeman, who started the past two games, worked some at center. Nick Saban said Monday that Kelly would be back this week and Shepherd would be limited for a day or two.
Also getting some extra work was Dominick Jackson, whom we spotted taking second-team snaps at both right guard and right tackle.
The first came in 2008, when Saban made his long-anticipated return to LSU, where he coached from 2000-2004. He was pleasantly greeted by many of his former players and others in the LSU family, but he was promptly greeted with F-bombs and other colorful expletives -- "You name it, I heard it," Saban said after the game -- from the student section and thousands of others throughout the Crimson Tide's overtime victory.
"It was very negative," Saban said Monday. "Getting hung in effigy and burned at the stake and just about everything that could happen happened."
"I think we just went out and we just wanted to prove a point," senior safety Nick Perry said. "We kind of overheard the media talking about we're the weakest link on the defense and just wanted to go out and show the world that we're not the weakest link. People have to prepare for us. We're going to just build off that game, all the momentum, and just keep on pushing.
"It's big-time because the last couple years A&M has been putting up the most points against us. We just want to go out and show the world that we can stop the spread offenses and I think we showed it."
Alabama's pass defense ranks fourth in the SEC with an average of 198.7 yards surrendered per game. Take away a season opener in which the Crimson Tide allowed 365 passing yards to West Virginia -- which currently averages 361 per game -- and Alabama's average drops to 171.
Alabama, meanwhile, is coming off a high-energy, emotion-fueled drubbing of Texas A&M. The key now is maintaining that sort of fever pitch excitement for this weekend's trip to Tennessee.
"Everybody chooses their energy. That's everybody's choice," Saban said. "Hopefully, our team will choose that kind of positive energy, that kind of positive attitude in terms of what they want to build on, what they want to accomplish and understand the importance of good energy early in the week to have great preparation so they are confident going into the game and feel you can execute and do the things you need to do."
But Sagarin still does his rankings, and his computers say the wrong Mississippi team is ranked No. 1 right now. Ole Miss (7-0) got the top spot in Sagarin's rankings this week, available on his website or from USA Today, while AP No. 1 Mississippi State was fourth. His computer selected SEC teams in its top five slots, with 6-1 Alabama and 5-1 Auburn Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, and 6-1 Georgia No. 5.
Boosting the rankings of the Crimson Tide and Tigers were the strength of schedules that ranked No. 9 and No. 3 in the nation, respectively, while Mississippi State's schedule ranked No. 20.
Florida State, No. 2 in the AP poll, is No. 10 according to Sagarin's computers despite its 7-0 record, as the Seminoles' schedule strength was graded as No. 36 in the country.
The entire top 5 is SEC? Great googly moogly.
It wasn’t a quick process, but Ragland eventually found his footing. The anxiety he felt dissipated, and he started playing in a way that lived up to his high billing as a freshman: fast, physical, aggressive. Through seven games, he trails only Collins for the team lead in tackles. He has made five stops behind the line of scrimmage, defended three passes and recovered two fumbles. Against Texas A&M on Saturday, he made one of the plays of the game, leaping high into the air for his first career interception.
"The first game for me I overthought everything," Ragland said. "Because I hadn’t played in a couple of years, everything was fast. But as the weeks went on, everything started slowing down for me and I could see it."
He no longer needs the safeties to tell him what to do, he said. Reading the line of scrimmage and the quarterback’s eyes, he is seeing things before they happen.
Playing fast and confident again, he is a big reason Alabama’s defense ranks third in the nation, giving up 262.1 yards per game.
Well, in case you forgot about Cooper after two less productive weeks (one in which he was hampered by an injury), he reminded us all on Saturday why he is the standard in the league at his position. Cooper was dominant in Alabama's 59-0 win against Texas A&M: eight catches, 140 yards, two touchdowns.
The Aggies had no answers for Cooper, whom quarterback Blake Sims looked toward early and often in the game. He's big, fast, physical and extremely productive. He has been outstanding this season, with five games of at least 130 receiving yards and 908 receiving yards total, which ranks fourth in the country.
Tuesday practice footage (linebackers, defensive line, tight ends)
Linebacker practice footage
Landon Collins (safety) interview
Nick Perry (safety) interview