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Jumbo Package: Super-Sized SEC Championship Week Kickoff Edition

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<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">CFP National Championship presented by AT&amp;T - Alabama v Georgia

RAEmember me? (not sorry)

Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Congratulations to Coach Locks, named yesterday as one of five finalists for the Broyles award:

The behind the scenes leader of Alabama’s offense is in the running for a prestigious award.

Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Mike Locksley is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, it was announced Monday.

The award goes to the nation’s top assistant coach.

I’d say he has an excellent chance of winning it too, though DC Bob Shoop at Mississippi State may be the leader in the clubhouse. You can tell how much Penn State missed that guy when he went to Tennessee, and the impact he made on the Bulldogs defense was inestimable. That team played much better than the sum of its parts.

It’s official: TERRELL LEWIS IS BACK, BABY!

Injured Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis (ACL) was back at practice Monday as the Crimson Tide started its on-field preparation for No. 5 Georgia and the 2018 SEC Championship Game. That’s less than five months since the pass rusher suffered the offseason injury.

The junior was fourth in line in individual drills in the indoor facility and had a brace on his right knee.

Man, college football is hilarious and dumb sometimes:

UNC hired Mack Brown again. The ‘Barn is looking to entice Bob Stoops to come usurp Gus. And most of the big money folks at Texas Tech want Mike Leach to come homenota bene: his seven-year lawsuit against the school is still pending. LOL.

And, sometimes, it is just heartbreaking. UCF had a legitimate shot at being in the playoff mix this season. Then, against rival USF, standout senior QB McKenzie Milton had a grotesque Marcus Lattimore -type injury that required emergency surgery. This all but dooms the Knights playoff chances. A Milton-less UCF is barely recognizable, and the committee will acknowledge that. But, there was some good news at least: Milton began trying to walk again yesterday.

Best of luck, kiddo. That’s an awful break for you and your team, and very likely a significant detriment your pro futures.

Yesterday was Saban’s scheduled Monday Presser, and he had a lot of things to say about Georgia. I was particularly taken in by this quote:

On if Georgia’s defensive scheme reminds him of Alabama

”There’s some similarities. I think they pick and choose the things that their players can do the best and take those parts and really work to do them well. I think we all try to improve our system each and every year so there is some changes that we can always make. And they’ve certainly made some that have made them more effective. I think they do a really good job. There are some similarities to what they do and what we do.”

Potter’s complete transcript is here, but I find it interesting that Big Lots ‘Bama is actually diverging away from Alabama’s defense. One thing you will notice is that the Bulldogs present a lot of two-high safety looks (a la John Chavis and Kirby’s 2015 teams) rather than a lot of the cover-one and cover-zero looks that Alabama has increasingly moved towards as it has become a more aggressive unit (and particularly as it was under Jeremy Pruitt.)

Just an observation. But, hey that’s why they pay us the small bucks.

Josh covered Cyrus Jones’ PR touchdown yesterday in the JP. But the Ravens did an entire followup story on the Baltimore native and how much it meant to the former ‘Bama All-American:

SECCG previews are starting to roll in (pun intended.) Here’s one from CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee.

Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports joined The Game with Ryan Fowler to recap Alabama’s victory over the Auburn Tigers, Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray Heisman race, preview Alabama/Georgia, and if the Crimson Tide can make the College Football Playoffs with a loss in the SEC Championship.

Spoiler: Alabama isn’t losing that game.

And, here’s one from Yahoo’s Pat Forde, breaking down all seven major championship tilts.

And, here’s one from TSN — where Zac Al-Khateeb notes, correctly, that the Playoff before the Playoff has begun (see story below for why this is important.)

The Alabama coaching staff named its eight players of the game, following ‘Bama’s 31-point whoopin’ of the ‘Barn.

The Alabama football coaching staff selected eight players of the week following the Tide’s 52-21 win over Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium last Saturday in the annual Iron Bowl matchup. Josh Jacobs, Ross Pierschbacher and Tua Tagovailoa on offense; Shyheim Carter, Anfernee Jennings and Dylan Moses on defense; and Kyriq McDonald and Henry Ruggs III on special teams were all recognized for their play against the Tigers.

I’d just like to chime in here on Shyheim Carter. That dude has been a beast this year, and he may have played his best game in crimson on Saturday. He is a poor man’s Minkah Fitzpatrick to be sure, but an impoverished Minkah is better than what most teams have at Star, and he is more than capable of being a Sunday player — nickel corner really suits him. Helluva game by Carter.

Alabama has started somewhat sluggishly the last few games. No shame in that — the Tide has faced three top-10 defenses in the last four games. But, Saban wants to see his Joyless Murder Machine get back to mashing people early.

On Monday, Saban said, “You always want to make sure your team is physically fresh. But the more difficult thing to determine is, are the players getting mentally tired? And I think that you want to make sure that both parts of that equation are in order to be fresh and ready to go.

“I can’t say 100 percent for sure if that’s had anything to do with how we’ve started games the last two games. If we were physically tired we wouldn’t have been able to come out and play so well in the second half. But if we were mentally tired, maybe that affected our preparation going into the game, which affected how we started.

Aye Ell has some great player interviews. The ever-humble Tua Tagovailoa has some zingers too about his throwing ability:

Tagovailoa was asked about how many bad throws he’s had this season. “I’ve thrown a lot,” he said. “A lot. Probably thrown more incompletions than I’ve thrown completions. You want to include practices, summer practices, spring practices? “Even games? I’d say I’ve thrown some balls that weren’t catchable, but the receivers made me look good.”

Narrator Voice: Yes, he has. But I guess we can forgive him.

Interesting idea here, but one premised upon a false premise, and one that completely ignores the character of the college game: Start the CFP this week and scrap the conference title games.

Start with this very simple lesson: You don’t need to expand the current College Football Playoff. You just need to reform the postseason into something that looks like it was designed by someone with a functioning brain.

In actuality, conference championship weekend – this weekend – is Week One of the college football playoff. That’s the key deal here. Week One.

College football has chosen conference championship weekend as the de facto first round of its playoff. Doing so means that, with justification, it can argue against playoff expansion because it would mean there are too many games for the players.

But what if they scrapped the conference championships and, instead, started an eight-team playoff this weekend?

A few reactions here. First, these games are very much already playoff contests of a sort — Georgia can earn its way in by dethroning Alabama. Oklahoma and Ohio State make their last case before the committee. Thus for teams on the margin, it is like a pennant race in baseball: you play all 162 and watch the scoreboard until the 11th hour. Second, the CCGs aren’t necessarily about, nor do they have to be about, a playoff appearance. How meaningful would a Utah victory be on Saturday? It’s never won its division — until now. It’s never made a Rose Bowl, and has a great shot to be in one. What about teams that fall short of a national title — how great was that 2014 Alabama SEC Championship? It was one of the more improbable runs of the Saban era and just a lot of fun. Blake Sims and crew didn’t make it past an Ohio State Buckeyes team peaking at the right time, but they leave as champions (ask 2011 LSU if that SEC ring matters — I’ll bet it does.)

Together, we can stop playoff creep and the desire to twist the special things about the college game into staid Sheildball.

This was a bad column, Dan Wetzel, and you should feel bad.

Sometimes you have to say “thank God.” And, in this case, a quietly but quite religious Alabama coaching staff helped.

But before hindsight, would Tagovailoa have chosen the Tide had Fromm still been committed?

“Honestly, I’m not too sure,” Tagovailoa said Monday on a teleconference. “I didn’t know that Jake was committed here before I committed. And my father kind of implied that we should come here.

“I thought it would be easier for us as a family to stay on the West Coast, but it was more so a family decision to come to the university and it’s one of those things where it’s cultural. So, it’s what my parents wanted more than what I wanted, you know? And it’s worked out great.”

Also, shout out to helicopter parents!

While we can Gump out over 2nd-and-26, DeVonta Smith is decidedly over it.

But while Tide fans are eager to relive that night, Smith decidedly isn’t.

“I don’t too much care about the catch no more,” he said. “It’s a new year. We’re moving on.”

It wasn’t a surprising response from a player whose enthusiasm was muted even in the immediate aftermath of a walk-off touchdown against the team to which he originally committed back when he was a four-star recruit.

You know, I though his subdued reaction that night was just a freshman being overawed by the moment. But, he could just be a lethally-cool customer.

We’ll be back later this evening for the CFP show with a prediction and reaction thread. Tonight is a big one for reading the tea leaves after the shakeup in the Top 10 this week.