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Jumbo Package: Alabama prepares for national title game as three point ‘dogs

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Alabama Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone, and happy 15th anniversary of the Nick Saban era.

What a ride it’s been.

As you well know, Alabama and Georgia took care of business in the semifinals, setting up the national championship matchup that most everyone assumed would happen in September. Despite Alabama’s 17 point win over the Dawgs in Atlanta, Georgia is actually favored by three points as of this writing, and the sharp money seems to be on the Dawgs’ side.

Perhaps some of that is owing to the loss of WR John Metchie, despite the emergence of Ja’Corey Brooks as a second option, and the uncertain status of OL starters Emil Ekiyor Jr. and Chris Owens. Alabama’s offensive line was lauded for playing the game of the season in the last matchup and will need to do so again. There is a media teleconference scheduled for this afternoon, and perhaps we will learn more about their status.

So far, media seems to be about 70% Alabama in this one, so the rat poison will be an issue.

Once Alabama got to the SEC title game, however, it found its vintage form. Georgia jumped out to a 10-0 early lead, but it was all Bama from there as the Tide scored 24 points in the second quarter and cruised to victory. Young threw for more than 400 yards in a performance that helped him become the first Alabama quarterback to ever win the Heisman. The victory secured Alabama’s spot in the CFP, but it was not without a cost as leading receiver John Metchie III was lost for the season in the game with a knee injury. Once in the field, the Tide put their physical superiority on display against the first Group of Five team to reach the CFP. Though the Bearcats did a good job taking away Alabama’s passing attack, the Tide ran effectively all game and dominated defensively.

Georgia will certainly have the psychological edge in the rematch. Their defense got torched for a SEC Championship game record passing performance in the last one. Can Kirby Smart find a way to slow down Bryce Young and Jameson Williams?

Cincinnati found out that they really didn’t want Bama.

“They came out and they punched us in the face a little bit,” offensive lineman Jacob Renfro said. “We needed to respond better. I believe that started with me. I just needed to be better in my communication, my calls, and just how I play football.”

Quarterback Desmond Ridder said Alabama didn’t do many things differently from what they saw on film.

“To sit there and draw the twists and stunts that they do on the board and work it out through practice, it’s another thing to come down here and play it on a big stage,” he said after completing 17 of 32 passes for 144 yards. “Our offensive line has done a great job all year, all season. And I want to thank them for what they’ve done for me. I missed a couple of completed easy throws, but it’s just different between practice and on film.”

The Bearcats really did little to carry the torch for G5 teams. Their first half yardage output was a playoff record low, and Alabama handled them with the most basic offensive gameplan imaginable. As expected, they simply couldn’t match up in the trenches.

Danny Kanell and his ilk were very much enjoying the SEC losing the more obscure bowl games, then the big bowls happened.

No conference outdoes the SEC’s hubris, and the league that brags “It Just Means More” endured a few days’ worth of wisecracks.

But games like the Armed Forces Bowl and Liberty Bowl were appetizers for the main course, and, wouldn’t you know it, that feast is reserved for the SEC.

The SEC is enjoying the last laugh after its top teams swept College Football Playoff semifinal games on Friday. Topranked Alabama suffocated No. 4 Cincinnati 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl, before No. 3 Georgia turned No. 2 Michigan into a joke with a 34-11 triumph in the Orange Bowl.

A wildly entertaining college football season will end in a fashion that looked predictable the first week of October: There’s Alabama, and there’s Georgia, and everyone else is a welcome distraction that provided some entertainment on their way to consolation prizes.

It was pretty wild seeing Arkansas, Kentucky and Ole Miss play on New Year’s Day while LSU, Auburn and Florida watched, but they carried the mantle well with a 2-1 performance that may well have been 3-0 without Matt Corral’s injury. Thankfully, Corral’s injury doesn’t appear to be too serious.

Herbie caused an uproar on Saturday.

“Des, we played in ‘meaningless games.’ I know you guys were here a lot. I just don’t understand that if you don’t make it to the Playoff, how is it meaningless to play football and compete? Isn’t that what we do as football players, we compete? So I don’t know if changing or expanding (the Playoff). I just think this era of player doesn’t love football.”

“Their whole mentality is all about the championship or the Playoff,” Howard responded. “Because of that, they don’t value the bowl game. When we were coming up, Herbstreit and myself, going to a bowl game was a huge reward for a fantastic season. That’s what it meant. Your team played this well so you’re going to be rewarded with a bowl game, you’re going to get a ring, you’re going to get swag. Now, kids don’t really care about that. They have a sense of entitlement. It’s like, ‘If we’re not going to the one that matters, it just doesn’t have as much value’ — like it did for us coming up.”

These dudes are getting roasted, but their own perspectives are valid. They were primarily speaking about the Rose Bowl, and all of the Ohio State opt outs specifically. Both played in the Big Ten some 30 years ago when getting to the Rose Bowl was the goal. It was everything, just as getting to the Sugar Bowl was everything for SEC players. Those bowls would be played and then a national champion would be voted on afterward.

Unfortunately, now the Big Ten and SEC Champions wind up playing in the College Football Playoff every year, relegating the Rose and Sugar to consolation prizes. Why wouldn’t players view them as meaningless at that point?

Birmingham’s Matt Mitchell, otherwise known as “The Ostrich” is a pretty funny dude. He does a weekly SEC Roll Call, and this week’s was good.

Last, Jalen Hurts showed his calm under pressure again.

Fortunately it doesn’t appear that anyone suffered injury.

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

Roll Tide.