It's championship week, but let's be honest - there's only one thing people are going to be talking about this morning.
TCU moved back into the College Football Playoff rankings' first four, and leapfrogged undefeated Florida State in the process.
The Horned Frogs were ranked third, one spot ahead of the Seminoles, in the rankings released Tuesday night, the final set of rankings before the 12-member committee selects the four teams for the inaugural playoff tournament on Sunday.
My first reaction to the news?
You had to know immediately that this was going to ignite a firestorm. Why move TCU up? Was it simply to start shifting pieces to get better geographic matchups? If that were the case they could've just moved Oregon to #1 and accomplished the same thing (unless they thought it would be harder to justify dropping Bama than FSU). Because it is such a departure from the ranking process we are used to, it just seemed so incredibly bold.
Once I got over the shock of it all, though, I had to admit I kind of saw the committee's point. Florida State's strength of Schedule is ranked 49th in the country. Out of the teams in the top 6, that mark is only better than Ohio State. Couple in the weak SOS with the knowledge that FSU has struggled (mightily, at times) against such a weak slate, and it is no surprise the Seminoles are getting no love.
Also, as far as the Baylor/TCU supposed controversy is concerned, if Baylor wins this week and TCU stays ranked above them (which seems likely, considering the placement of the teams), then the committee's message is clear - "neglect playing a power 5 team out of conference at your own peril".
Now, back to the good guys.
Left tackle Cam Robinson was again working with the first group with his shoulder sprain, but later in the viewing period, right tackle Austin Shepherd moved over to his spot. Grant Hill moved into Shepherd's spot at right tackle as he's been doing when injuries shuffled the line.
Receiver DeAndrew White walked through a few drills as his teammates did them at full speed. He's still nursing the hamstring injury. T.J. Yeldon continued to do the same with the running backs with his ankle injury.
Reason for optimism: The tough part is over. Alabama doesn't have to play another SEC West opponent the rest of the year. Surviving the gauntlet of LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn wasn't easy, but the Crimson Tide made it through without a loss. Now they're ranked No. 1 and one win from earning the top seed in the College Football Playoff.
Cause for concern: Can a title game feel like a trap game? If so, the SEC championship fits the bill. Alabama is a double-digit favorite over Missouri, despite the Tigers' winning the East and ranking 16th. With Mizzou's pair of spectacular defensive ends, Shane Ray and Markus Golden, Alabama's offense will be challenged. Blake Sims, fresh off a three-interception performance against Auburn, will have to make better decisions with the football -- in less time.
In six games on network television, Cooper has averaged 122 receiving yards and a touchdown. That includes a 201-yard, three-touchdown game against Florida; a 140-yard, two-touchdown game against Texas A&M; and pivotal late-season wins over LSU and Mississippi State in which he caught eight passes for 80-plus yards and a touchdown both times out.
When CBS couldn’t put Alabama on the air again because of contractual obligations, Cooper took his talents to ESPN in a telecast that set overnight records for viewership. Against Auburn on Saturday, Cooper looked like the best player in college football, racking up 13 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s pretty good,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He’s probably one of the better playmakers in college football, and he showed that.”
Jackson took to Twitter on Sunday to apologize for his performance. Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Jackson will continue to battle with junior Bradley Sylve - who he replaced as a starter after the first game - for playing time in Saturday's SEC Championship against Missouri.
"He turned the page (in practice Monday)," Alabama safety Landon Collins said. "Like we tell them, we gave him a hug and tell him it's going to be all right. We all have bad games. We all have those type of games. You've got to know how to work around it and move on. "He told us when we got in our DB group, he said, 'Man I'm sorry for the way I played, it won't happen again.' He's back to regular Eddie."
Through three games, he'd yet to catch a pass with only a few balls thrown his way. Now after 12 contests, his 226 receiving yards on 13 catches ranks third on the team.
"We had a problem earlier in the season but now we're on the same page, we're clicking," Howard said. "It's good." The problem early in the year was simple. "Probably just not me going to get the ball out of the air," Howard said. "But now I've been doing a pretty good job of it, of going up and getting it and attacking the ball."
Howard's caught passes in seven of the last nine games including a big 20-yarder Saturday against Auburn. He caught it high in his jump falling backward one play before Amari Cooper's first-quarter touchdown.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban praised Evans' development this season. Perhaps a bigger role is in store for the SEC Championship and a potential playoff run. "He's got some special quickness in pass‑rush," Saban said."Late in the game (Saturday), we had guys that played a lot of plays. We have a lot of confidence in Rashaan that he can go in there and give us some pass‑rush, give us some minutes.
"He did a really good job of pressuring the quarterback. He plays with great effort. I'm really pleased with what he was able to do when he got the opportunity (Sunday)."
The Tigers, cast in the role of spoiler again, will try to take the lessons learned from last year's embarrassment and put them to use this Saturday. "It was such a devastating loss last year," offensive lineman Mitch Morse said. "We had so much emotionally invested in that game and it didn't turn out that way. But it meant the world to this team that we were able to come back to Atlanta. ... You play such great competition week in and week out in the SEC that being able to represent the East again is just unbelievable.
"We harnessed what we felt after that game last year and (it's) definitely going to help us drive through this week."
"Alabama has a great program," playmaking defensive end Markus Golden said. "We respect them, but I'm going to be real with you. I respect Mizzou just like I respect Alabama. I feel we're on the Alabama level."
So what's the holdup? Part of it is undoubtedly the simple process of fully interviewing McElwain. Some of it is likely negotiating with Colorado State to lower the up front cost of McElwain's $7.5 million buyout by working out something like a guarantee game later. It could also be that one or both of Foley and McElwain want to sleep on this before making it official.
What is clear at this point is that McElwain is the current top target for the Florida job. Foley does not have a history of traveling to meet with people he doesn't end up hiring. Unless something unexpected happens during the talks, McElwain will become the next head football coach at Florida.
Just look at some of the recent hires by the biggest football programs. USC's most recent two hires were Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, former assistants at the school who hadn't proven themselves to be elite coaches. Florida hired a coordinator with no head coaching experience in Will Muschamp. Gus Malzahn has been good at Auburn, but he was just one year removed from being a coordinator with no head coaching experience.
Michigan went with Brady Hoke based on good tenures at Ball State and San Diego State, but no one really saw that as a home run at the time. Tennessee struck out while going after Gundy, and it was replacing Derek Dooley. Texas did well with Charlie Strong, and Ohio State got lucky that Urban Meyer was working for ESPN. Hires like those at the premier programs are becoming more exceptions than the rule. It's been going that way for a while, but it's basically official now. With exceptions of large status disparities—like an SEC school wooing a Sun Belt coach or a Big Ten school recruiting a MAC coach—we can't really expect a head coach to jump to another job just because it's a "better" job.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston's code of conduct hearing began Tuesday and will continue into Wednesday.
Winston could be charged with any of four violations to the school's code of conduct relating to the alleged sexual assault of another then-FSU student in December 2012. If it is determined that Winston has violated the code of conduct, punishments could include probation, suspension and expulsion.
Tuesday practice footage
Landon Collins (safety) interview
Jalston Fowler (fullback) interview