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Jumbo Package: Tide, Tigers land in New Orleans for one of the nation’s best emerging rivalries

Quotes, breakdowns, videos, interviews and more on Landing Day of Round III.

NCAA Football: Mercer at Alabama Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Traveling today to visit my kid in Hell Auburn. Takes will be limited; content will not. Dig in to today’s JP, which is pretty substantive:

Don't expect Jeremy Pruitt's job juggling to be Lane Kiffin Part II - SEC Blog- ESPN

While no one would say Kiffin’s departure cost Alabama a national championship, nobody made the argument that it didn’t create a ripple effect in the organization, either.

The good news is that the current situation is different -- more akin to Kirby Smart’s departure two years ago, when he left his post as Alabama's defensive coordinator to become Georgia’s head coach. That doesn’t mean Alabama will beat Clemson this time around, but it should create less of an impact on players and the preparation due in large part to the fact that this essentially is and has always been Saban’s defense.

Tom at TSK gets you caught up on the SEC going into basketball conference play. Can you believe Alabama hosts No. 8 Texas A&M just two days from now in Coleman Coliseum? We’ll see you there. #BURT

Alabama coach Nick Saban says Crimson Tide lost their identity in loss to Auburn

Do we have some ball control, RTDB on the horizon? A focused defense that will make tackles at the LOS? That seems to be the takeaway from the Auburn loss:

"I didn't think we finished very well [last year]. Your identity as a team starts with how you finish. This team has an opportunity to finish this season a little better than the last. I think we lost our identity a little bit in the last game, forgot who we were and what we needed to do to succeed. Feel fortunate to have the opportunity to rectify that in the playoffs."

And, while last year’s loss is in the Tide’s mind, this game is not about revenge (Saban is maintaining that, in any event.)

Instead, many are now viewing this intersectional matchup as a rapidly-evolving rivalry of the best sort: meaningful games between evenly-matched opponents, played at a high level, for immense stakes, with superstars shining. Hard to argue with that assessment, at least as far as the first two installments. If it’s a game won by superstars, the Tide has more of them on tap: Let’s just not create any Clemson legends, okay?

Clemson Tigers arrive in New Orleans to face Alabama Crimson Tide in Allstate Sugar Bowl

Gotta’ think Dabo would have rather seen Ohio State again than a team that has taken it to the wire for 400 plays the last two years, eh? Clemson, for one, is not buying Alabama as an underdog either.

Dabo Swinney joke[d], "I'm getting tired of this."

"They just don't go away, and that's why they're Alabama," Swinney said. "But at the end of the day, when you're competing to be the best in college football, you're going to end up playing these guys somewhere along the way, so it's just kind of the way it's supposed to be. We look forward to it, enjoy it, and I don't have any doubt it won't be a heckuva game."

Relatedly, get used to seeing a lot of these teams a lot more over the coming years: As we suspected would be the case, the CFP has created a tier of about a dozen contenders that will annually vie for one of the four spots, with everyone else playing for a nice paycheck in Orlando. While it is harder to be No. 1 or No. 2 a la the BCS, it’s much easier for a 1-loss national power to squeak in a field that is double that size and then see faces casual fans may have grown tired of (cough Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma cough). The field of four gives a team some margin of error, but, at the same time, the same ole’ faces being around may start the drum beat for the CFP to increase the size of the field too, just for the sake of variance.

It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that CFP contracts can be renegotiated either. The experiment has been a success. While viewership and attendance may be dropping for bowl games and regular season tilts, the Playoffs have been an unqualified success. Everyone involved is printing money, and if a little is good, then a lot more is better: Television execs and sponsors and administrators simply can’t resist that thinking. It’s why we have a field of 68 in the NCAAs, 12 regular season CFB games, universal conference title games, 40 bowls, and very soon we’ll have a field of eight playoff teams. Playoff creep is real and it’s coming. We warned you four years ago, and we’re not backing off that. Until then, enjoy seeing the same small coterie of teams that recruit at an elite level, develop talent, and stay healthy for 15 games.

And, here I was not going to write a lot. SMH.


Here’s a nice video breakdown contrasting the coaching styles of Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.

Saint Nick updates the Tide’s injury situation and the value of having playoff experience.

It’s brutal, but not unexpected:

Dylan Moses was injured in practice, the third practice that we had, and he won’t be able to participate in this game. Hootie Jones, we lost in the Auburn game. So, those two guys are definitely out. Shaun Dion Hamilton is out.

How can Alabama win? And why will Clemson win? CBS Sports makes a case for both teams. They also covered Georgia, and broke down Oklahoma’s best case scenario.

Interviews with Damien Harris and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Man, am I going to miss both of these guys.

Finally, on the lighter side, SEC rivals see ‘Bama and the ‘Dawgs off at the airport:

We have a lot more for you today. Roll Tide.