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Jumbo Package: Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Crimson Tide news and notes.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Gump Day, everyone. As expected, there is plenty to read this morning:

College Football Playoff Rankings: SEC rules with Alabama, Texas A&M in top four -

You should not be surprised to see a one-loss team (Texas A&M) ahead of a major conference undefeated team (Washington). There have been only three weekly rankings in the first two seasons of the CFP in which all of the unbeaten Power Five teams were atop the rankings. Those were the first two of 2014 (Mississippi State and Florida State) and the final one last year (Clemson). In fact, the only time there have been three major undefeated teams at the top of the rankings was the first one of last season, when Clemson, LSU and Ohio State topped the list. At that time, there were still eight Power Five teams without a loss. "Undefeated" doesn't mean much to the committee.

That wasn't another earthquake you felt from the west coast, it was just a simultaneous smashing of several million television screens. Today is going to be a big day for Best Buy locations out there.

Seriously, though, I can see their point. The Aggies do have a nice win at Auburn that they are sort of hanging their hat on right now, but they also went to overtime with both UCLA and Tennessee. Both teams have exactly one win over teams ranked in the list, but Washington has been more dominant overall, particularly in a blowout over a Stanford team that beat the aforementioned Bruins.

In the end, it really doesn't matter. Should Washington win out and become an undefeated Pac 12 champion, they will be in the playoff. Still, it's fun to discuss. Do you think the committee got it right? Vote and tell us in the comments.

Alabama practice report: Lineman not spotted, new secondary taking shape |

-- Right guard Alphonse Taylor was not spotted with the offensive line Tuesday. He was dressed and practicing Monday. Lester Cotton started in his spot since suffering a concussion at Arkansas early last month. Josh Casher was the second-team right guard.

-- Minkah Fitzpatrick continued work at safety in all formations. Tony Brown was the Star (fifth defensive back) in nickel coverage.

-- When they went to dime, Ronnie Harrison moved up to dime back and Hootie Jones came in to play his safety spot.

Why Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick is ideal player to replace safety Eddie Jackson |

Two days after safety Eddie Jackson fractured his leg in the Crimson Tide's victory over Texas A&M, Saban summoned Fitzpatrick to a meeting. "He was talking to me about how I needed a new challenge," Fitzpatrick recalled. More pointedly, he told Fitzpatrick he was planning to move him from the star cornerback position to Jackson's spot on the back end of the defense. It was a bold decision, but a sensible one. Fitzpatrick, after all, is regarded as one of Alabama's most cerebral players.

Minkah at free safety is something I have wanted to see since last year. That isn't to say that I wanted him to replace Eddie, just that his skill set fits the role so perfectly. A player with his length, range, speed, and instincts is going to be terrifying for opposing quarterbacks. With Fitz at free safety, Brown in the slot, and Ronnie and Hootie splitting strong safety and money, everyone is playing in their most natural positions.

Sadly, the more we hear about Shank, the more it seems that he may end up joining Eddie on the sideline as a virtual graduate assistant. He has apparently had multiple concussions already, and this quote is pretty telling:

"At the end of the day, you have to think about your overall health and what's best for you and your family," said Taylor, who shared he was expecting a daughter in December. "I'd rather have my overall health than play in the NFL.

"When you are in concussion protocol, it's not even about football anymore. It's more about your overall health and doing what's best for you."

Great perspective, Shank. You have your degree in hand. Enjoy the rest of your last season on campus and prepare for the next stage of life that will allow you to take care of that little girl, whatever that may be.

Alabama football: Tide still evaluating punt return options | Alabama |

"The judgment of the guy back there, when to field the ball, when not to field it, when to play it on a hop, when to get away from it, I think that's really critical when you're playing against this kind of team," Saban said.

Another option is wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who started the season as the Tide’s punt returner against Southern California. On Tuesday, Ridley said he works on punt return duty every week and would be willing to go back into the role if his number was called.

After losing Eddie on a punt return, the thought of Ridley back there is somewhat unnerving. Hopefully Marks or Diggs can show what it takes to win Saban's confidence. Speaking of Ridley...

Why Alabama's Calvin Ridley is having 'great year' despite numbers being down |

Blocks like the one against Texas A&M — and how excited Ridley was afterward — also show something else about the Florida native that Saban and teammates mentioned while discussing Ridley this week, that he's a selfless team player.

"He's a guy who's a team player who does a great job for us, even when he doesn't have the ball," tight end O.J. Howard said. "He plays well without the ball, which makes him a great team player. He had a great block or two in the last game (against Texas A&M). That's just the type of person he is. He's a player that plays hard with or without the ball."

Hmmm, an immensely talented receiver who is content to play at Alabama despite a run-first offense, and learns to be an elite, enthusiastic blocker even though he doesn't get the ball as much as he would elsewhere? Wonder if guys like that can be any good in the pros?

LSU football: QB Danny Etling knows he can't panic against Alabama's heat

"You never want to turn the football over. Make sure you protect the football," Etling said. "That's something we'll be highlighting a lot in practice. You want to play your game still. Be aggressive, but don't be reckless."

For Etling, that means keeping his timing with his receivers in sync even though the temptation will be strong to make the clock in his head tick a second quicker.

"You want to make sure (the clock in your head) stays the same," Etling said. "Sometimes, when you get hit a lot, you think you've got to speed it up and get it out quicker to beat it. But you want to make sure you have the same timing with your receivers."

That means Etling's full faith will be in his offensive line, which will be back in its originally envisioned form for the first time since the season opener with the return of starting right tackle Toby Weathersby.

"Welcome back, Toby. Run out there and block Jonathan Allen for us, OK?"

The latest news on LSU football before the Alabama game

While he’s certainly shown the ability to play dominant, he’s also only able to give the Tigers help in spurts, with his weight and conditioning becoming more and more of an issue over the past month. He didn’t record any stats in the loss to Auburn, and he followed that up with just one tackle against Missouri. Orgeron also said Valentine wasn’t giving his best effort at practice, which led to him being benched against Southern Miss and Ole Miss. He didn’t see a snap in either game, with freshman Edwin Alexander moving up into the second-team spot at nose tackle.

LSU will most likely need Valentine the month of November, and Orgeron said the point is being received. During Tuesday’s press conference, Orgeron noted that Valentine had a good practice, even pointing out that he’s already lost some weight. He’s listed on LSU’s official roster at 6-foot-4 and 356 pounds, though it’s likely he’s put on more weight this season, which has led to Orgeron’s decision to hold him out of game action the past two weeks.

Trevonte Valentine was supposed to be LSU's savior at nose tackle this season. Unfortunately he has apparently spent more time at the buffet than the gym.

Take it from Alabama: LSU needs to embrace change after Les Miles - SEC Blog- ESPN

In the roughly five years since, it has been essentially the same story. Alabama adapted, while LSU remained stuck in place. Saban embraced the hurry-up, made a bold move in hiring Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator and won two more national championships. Miles stuck with an antiquated offense, never developed a quarterback, never beat Alabama again and was fired after a Week 4 loss to Auburn.

Therein lies the lesson for LSU as it looks to fill its head-coaching vacancy: Find someone different, and whatever you do, find someone who isn’t afraid of change.

It's been discussed around here many times, but it rings true. Alabama is where it is right now because Saban chose to adapt to a game he never really wanted to play.

Lastly, there was a nice video of the players greeting Coach Saban on his birthday:

Maybe one day these guys will learn to loosen up and have a little fun, eh?

That's about it for today. Gump early and often.

Roll Tide.