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Jumbo Package: Playoff Bound, and People are Angry About It

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The haters are out in full force today, folks.

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NCAA Football: Mississippi at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. As you know, Alabama was deemed the #4 team in the country by the College Football Playoff committee, and the usual suspects are melting down:

According to Jason McIntyre, we just straight up killed the sport, y’all.

LOCK THEM UP THIS IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

Why yes, Skip. Yes he does.

Fire ‘em all. Scumbags.

Thanks! We’ll be there!

Maybe if your alma mater and head coach hadn’t quit on one another, Alabama’s strength of schedule would have looked a little better.

Finally, we have good old Wolken, who had actually tried to be a good activist and get ahead of the situation, essentially begging the committee last week not to take Alabama. He’s outraged, too.

Any choice besides Alabama would have been imperfect, but it would have at least followed the logic the criteria that was established early on to encourage strong non-conference scheduling and allow the committee to see beyond simple won-loss record.

Instead, an Alabama team that feasted on SEC weaklings early in the season but looked quite mortal late in the year gets a pass into the playoff without winning a conference title or beating another elite team.

That’s a bad precedent to set for the committee, no matter what happens from here. If conference championships don’t matter, let’s just say they don’t matter or find a different way to pick the field.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to understand. Conference championships do matter, to the people in that conference. They shouldn’t matter when trying to select the four best teams, however. It’s conceivable that you could have a year where the four best are all in the same conference.

The conference championship game is the culmination of an eight-or-nine game season that is won on the field. A team can come into conference play 0-3, and still win the conference. The bowl system is a beauty pageant, with a committee charged with looking at all 128 teams, and considering all games played. There is absolutely no reason that the conference title game should count as anything more than another game for the committee to evaluate.

We certainly know who Dabo Swinney wanted to play:

Sorry, Dabo. No 31-point free rides to the title game this year. You will be getting an Alabama team that is reasonably healthy and out for redemption. There is no one this group would rather play than Clemson.

Now that you’ve had your morning chuckle, let’s move along to the game. According to Vegas, this is going to be the best playoff yet:

No. 4 Alabama (-1) vs. No. 1 Clemson

Makes some sense and also makes no sense at all. Clemson has sometimes been just so-so during its national title defense, but the Tigers have the look of a team that’s playing their best football. They roughed up South Carolina in a rivalry game in Week 13 and followed that up by putting an unholy obliteration on Miami in the ACC Championship Game. They’re the No. 1 seed in the field for a reason.

Oklahoma is favored by three over Georgia. This is certainly a departure from the midseason speculation that the Tide would be favored by a touchdown or more against any opponent, but Alabama is favored nonetheless. Right or wrong, you can bet that Ohio State’s showing in last year’s playoff played a role, as the committee watched them struggle with a Wisconsin team that wouldn’t stay on the field with any of the four playoff teams.

Third down was rough for Alabama in the Iron Bowl, as well as the last time the Crimson Tide played Clemson.

Against Auburn, Alabama was 3 of 11 on third downs on offense. Defensively, Alabama allowed Auburn to convert 50 percent of its third-down chances.

Against Clemson in January, Alabama was 2 of 15 on third down while Clemson converted 7 of 18 attempts.

Alabama won’t win if it doesn’t fix its third-down issues. You can’t have your defense out there for as many plays as Alabama did against Clemson last season and expect to win.

I can’t stress this enough. It will obviously help that Clemson will be facing a Tide team that is going to be healthier than it has been since the opener, though Shaun Dion Hamilton and Hootie Jones are out. Two Alabama players have been injured on split-zone cut blocks, and both looked pretty dirty. This needs to be looked at in the offseason.

-- The Sugar Bowl has always been special to Alabama and the SEC. It's only more special playing the No. 1 team in Clemson.

-- Did he think Alabama was in? Saban said he told his team that since they didn't take care of business, it was uncertain. He did his best to influence who he could. There was some "white knuckle time."

-- On playing Clemson the previous two seasons: You get to know the strategy and systemic tendencies from playing before.

Add “white knuckle time” to the growing list of Sabanisms. Also says here that LaBryan Ray may be able to practice by Christmas. As for the rest of the team:

Just so happens that December 15 is the last day of final exams.

Alabama held its annual team awards banquet Sunday night at the Birmingham Sheraton.

Center Bradley Bozeman, linebacker Rashaan Evans, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton were named permanent team captains.

Great choices here. Bozeman came to Alabama as a grayshirt and became the leader of a very good offensive line. Minkah is an incredible football player and the most complete defensive back of the Saban era. Evans has gutted out his senior season through unconscionable pain and held the defense together with an extraordinary level of play as his fellow linebackers dropped like flies. Shaun Dion Hamilton was the senior leader and signal caller until his injury. Watching him get emotional as he knew he was walking off the field for the last time, with unfinished business left on the table, was gut-wrenching.

Hey, Gus is staying at Auburn, y’all!

The seven-year deal is worth a total of $49 million, according to a person familiar with the contract. ESPN.com was the first to report the financial details.

The agreement was reached Sunday afternoon.

To recap, many in the fanbase had fired him after the LSU game six weeks ago. He gets hot, beats Georgia and Alabama at home, then gets his pants pulled down on national TV to earn a Peach Bowl date with UCF that will be watched by 400 people while his rivals go to the show anyway. For his trouble he gets a huge raise and extension.

By the way, he loses a ton of talent next season and some in the program even believe that Kerryon Johnson is gone and Jarrett Stidham is 50/50 on entering the NFL Draft. The fans don’t know whether to celebrate stability or cry that they are stuck with Gus.

Auburn in a nutshell, folks.

Last but not least, SEC Shorts put out another solid effort, this time matching up schools with their bowl dates at a dance.

“Dude, Birmingham Bowl.” Classic.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.