Happy Holidays! I got y'all a little present: This weekend edition of the Jumbo Package/bowl game/whatever open thread.
Feel free to go nuts and discuss any of the five (5) bowl games on today, grandma's favorite recipes, whether the 2003 invasion of Iraq spawned ISIS, or some of the stories I've selected below for your consideration. Today's bowl game schedule is listed below as well.
Programming note: With Christmas fast approaching, and duties such as saying hello to one's family and getting some rest being required, we will still be posting but obviously not 5-6 articles a day. Still, there should be enough to entertain you.
Have a great weekend, and avoid Walmart if at all possible -- I was there last night and it was like Thunderdome.
Cotton Bowl Prep
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio talks to the media about how the Spartans are preparing to face Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
Cook has thrown for an average of 243 yards per game with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 12 games this year. Michigan State is 34-4 in games Cook has started the last three years, including 8-3 against Associated Press Top 25 teams and 5-1 vs. teams in the AP Top 10. "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the country," Tide linebacker Reggie Ragland said. "... He's going to do what he has to do and get the ball to his playmakers. It's all about the guys up front, the [defensive backs] covering, and guys up front have to get pressure on him, and that's what we'll try to do."
Bowl Games and Playoffs
Conference with most at stake: SEC. An underwhelming bowl performance last season (7-5 overall but 2-5 by ranked teams) preceded a rough regular season this fall. The SEC has only one top-10 team and arguably the weakest division (East) among Power 5 conferences. Alabama can end the SEC's brief national title drought, but a stronger overall showing is key as FPI favors all 10 SEC teams in their bowl matchups (Las Vegas favors all but Florida). If the SEC stumbles again, its incessant claim of being the nation's top conference will ring hollow entering next season.
If one practice is any indication, though, Saban feels better about his players’ attitude this time around, compared to the sense he got last year when he said players felt "entitled" after winning the SEC. "Look, this is a new season," he said. "So when you get into a new season, what you've done in the past doesn't have anything to do with what you'll do moving forward. It's hard to carry the momentum of the season into a game that's 3.5-4 weeks from the last time you played. So the players need to refocus. They can be happy about what they've accomplished, but they also can't be satisfied. "I asked the players, 'Are you satisfied? And not only are you not satisfied, are you willing to do the work you need to do to play really good teams like we're going to have to play in playoffs?' There's no easy way to do that.
Standout defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson tells Edward Aschoff how the Alabama front seven developed throughout the season and became one of the most disruptive units in college football.
He admitted earlier in the season he wasn't feeling 100 percent but never specified what was wrong..."I'd say I feel real well," Robinson said. "I feel fresh. Legs are real fresh. Just looking forward to getting back to practice and preparing for the bowl game."
Before this season, Williams had just 1.5 sacks in 19 games over two seasons. He was suspended at the beginning of preseason camp in 2014, missing the first 21 practices of August. The biggest difference in his game was made in the weight room. "I already had the speed and quickness," Williams said. "I just had to focus on being more powerful."
Bo Scarbrough looks to be moving on up at Alabama. The Alabama freshman running back was the third player to go through running back drills for the second time this week. Scarbrough consistently went through drills behind Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and senior Kenyan Drake during the media viewing portions of practice.
Crimson Tide student athletes share the importance of what graduation means to them.
SATURDAY'S BOWL SCHEDULE
If you haven't already, make sure to check out Saxon's excellent advanced stats piece from yesterday. Once again, he will be previewing the contests, breaking down the numbers, and giving his picks to all 42 bowl games. It is excellent.
Here is your schedule, all times are Central Standard (God's right and proper time zone.)
For those of you without access to ESPN via cable, and for you cord-cutters out there, here is a fantastic article on how to bypass the World Wide Leader's hegemony.
Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL): 4:30 p.m. Ohio Bobcats vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers