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Jumbo Package: Alabama stuck at 8 in polls after Kentucky blowout

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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Alabama v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Happy Monday, everyone. Alabama got the victory in Lexington on Saturday and clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game. Jalen Milroe got the headlines with his six touchdown performance, and Austin Hannon has some film work for you on that here.

The defense, of course, should not be overlooked.

The game within the game was Alabama’s rushing defense vs. Kentucky’s rushing offense — and Alabama thoroughly dominated the matchup. Taking out a 74-yard run by Ramon Jefferson in garbage time, Kentucky ran for only 19 yards (including sack yardage). Ray Davis, the SEC’s second-leading rusher, had 12 carries for 26 yards. The defense was without starting linebacker and signal caller Deontae Lawson, but sophomore Jihaad Campbell filled in nicely.

Without the threat of the run, Kentucky was one-dimensional, and Alabama capitalized. Without starting safety Jaylen Key, the lineup of Kool-Aid McKinstry, Trey Amos, Terrion Arnold, Malachi Moore and Caleb Downs held Devin Leary to just 158 yards passing. Alabama recorded three sacks, five quarterback hits and 10 tackles for loss, illustrating its dominance on the line of scrimmage.

The star of the game defensively, no pun intended, was Arnold, who moved to Alabama’s star nickel position and recorded four tackles, a forced fumble and an interception as he continued his All-SEC — and potential All-America — campaign.

Alabama thoroughly dominated a quality opponent on the road, and it was great to see. Hopefully they keep building from here.

That win didn’t help Alabama much in the polls, however.

Alabama reeled off its eight straight win after thrashing Kentucky on the road, 49-21.

Was it enough to move the Crimson Tide up in the polls with just two weeks left to go in the regular season?

Alabama is ranked No. 8 in both the AP and Coaches polls, which were released Sunday. The College Football Rankings will come out Tuesday night.

We’ll see if the committee actually ranks teams based on who looks the best currently, as they claim to. There are not seven better teams than this Alabama squad.

Moving on to the SEC Championship Game, that one has been pretty consequential in the playoff era.

The winner of the SEC Championship Game plays in the Sugar Bowl unless the College Football Playoff selects it to play in a semifinal game instead, or if the Sugar Bowl is a semifinal game.

In the SEC title game era since 1992, 14 of the game’s winners went on to win the national championship, and SEC teams overall won the national title in seven straight seasons (2006-2012).

Since 2014, the winner of every SEC Championship Game appeared in the College Football Playoff, going 8-1 in the semifinal stage and 4-4 in the CFP national championship, but with two of those losses coming against other SEC teams.

Brad Crawford at 247 compares the one-loss teams.

One factor playing in Alabama’s favor is the fact the Crimson Tide will have a chance to post college football’s best win of conference championship weekend in a few weeks if two-time defending national champion Georgia comes in unbeaten on the nation’s longest winning streak. That would mark the win of the year in eyes of the selection committee if Alabama gets it done in Atlanta. Oregon will have a similar opportunity against likely unbeaten Washington, but that will be a rematch of a previous loss earlier this fall.

Nick Saban said last month on The Pat McAfee Show that his team knows winning the SEC Championship will at least put them in the conversation for a final four berth.

Alabama landed a 2025 commit after the game on Saturday.

“Zion is a huge get for Alabama,” said Jimmy Stein, Alabama Team Analyst for On3. “He has the traits you typically find in a national elite pass rushing prospect — the length, the burst, the physicality. He is at his best playing downhill and disrupting the offensive backfield.

“But the physicality might surprise you. He can really mix it up in the interior when he’s called upon to do that. But make no mistake, he’s an outside pass rushing presence, and Alabama has done a tremendous job in recent years of identifying and landing elite players at that position. Ziggy has a great chance to be the next one. Alabama is off to a tremendous start with this ‘25 group.”

Last, you undoubtedly heard that Texas A&M fired Jimbo Fisher and paid an obscene buyout to do so.

Fisher’s dismissal is expected to cost the school more than $76 million to buy out his contract, nearly triple the highest known previous coaching contract buyout at a public school. According to his contract, Fisher is owed $19.2 million within 60 days and then $7.2 annually through 2031. There is no offset or mitigation on those payments, and the annual payments start 120 days after termination.

Bjork said the athletic department and the 12th Man Foundation, a Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is the university’s fundraising arm for athletics, will cover the costs.

“The finances are monumental,” Bjork said. “Let me be very clear in this next part: Texas A&M athletics and the 12th Man Foundation will be the sole sources of the necessary funds covering these transition costs.”

When asked if he expected to be on the hook for the entire buyout, Bjork said there were “different parameters” in the contract language.

“Those mechanics will be worked out as soon as we touch base with his representation,” Bjork said, referring to Fisher’s agent, Jimmy Sexton.

Something is seriously wrong with the world when people of means would rather donate that kind of money to fire a football coach than use it for so many other worthy causes, but college football is big business and this is where we are.

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

Roll Tide.