Random thoughts and observations as Alabama enters Auburn week.
Suddenly, Nick Saban's team has everything to play for.
Just when it looked as if the rest of the college football landscape was about to rid itself of Southeastern Conference fatigue, the Big 12 and Pac-12 did themselves in.
And as bad as fans in Eugene and Manhattan feel this morning, their case of the Mondays might be a lot worse in a week's time. If Notre Dame loses to Southern California and Florida beats Florida State this week, there won't be enough cheese in Wisconsin to go with all the whine.
Can you say all-SEC BCS National Championship Game, The Sequel?
I knew you could.
And that's why 2014 can't get here quickly enough for Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany. It's why Delany fought for the "conference champions" qualifier in the upcoming playoff format.
It's also why the new format won't prove to be an upgrade over the current setup. If the system were in play this year, no way two or three SEC teams would be selected to take part in a four-team tournament.
Heck, if the SEC had a playoff format for its own league championship this season, a four-team format wouldn't be big enough to settle things.
Assuming the season's final weekend goes according to plan, you'd have No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Florida and No. 7 LSU in, with No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 12 South Carolina out. In other words, two teams who had wins over two teams that would get in would be left out.
While there is no perfect solution for identifying college football's top team, using Delany's Upward Bound initiative as a part of the selection process will only lead to more questions than answers.
And with the best of the best getting left out based on conference affiliation, heart-stopping November weekends like the ones we've had the last two years will be a thing of the past. After all, in the new system, what would Florida and LSU have to play for this weekend?
*By the way, I don't see Florida winning on the road at Florida State, so SEC haters should be able to sleep well come Saturday night. The Gators have been great defensively and on special teams, but that offense won't score enough to beat the Seminoles.
*Should the Gators' losing streak to FSU reach three games this week, Will Muschamp will have posted the most under appreciated 10-win season in UF football history, a storied tradition that dates all the way back to 1990. Gator fans would talk more about losses to Georgia and Florida State than wins over Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina. Think Bill Curry in 1989.
*Two injured quarterbacks who will impact the Gators' BCS chances this week: UF's Jeff Driskel (ankle) and USC's Matt Barkley (shoulder). Seeing as how there isn't a huge difference between Driskel and his backup, Jacoby Brissett, UF's hopes of knocking off FSU probably won't be affected all that much if Driskel can't go. However, there will be a significant drop off from Barkley to Max Wittek.
*I guess I missed the tweet about Richard Simmons taking over as Southern California's strength and conditioning coach. How else could you explain the manner in which opponents have handled the Trojans at the point of attack this season? Notre Dame, which can matchup up front with any team in the country, will have no problem running the football in Los Angeles this week.
*Here's hoping Monte Kiffin, 72, bows out semi-gracefully as SC's defensive coordinator. The guy has been too good of a coach for too long to be asked to leave the business on someone else's terms. As for his son, well, that's another issue entirely.
*Saturday's game between Alabama and Auburn will mark the fifth straight year that the contest has had BCS title game implications. The winner of the last three meetings has gone on to win it all.
*Those wondering if a ninth conference game is on the way for SEC teams need only look at a November 17 slate loaded with FCS opponents. Here's guessing the Southern Conference-SEC Challenge won't be around much longer.
*Given the success opponents have had through the air in recent weeks, Crimson Tide nickel and dime backs can expect to be targeted from here on out. With opposing offense spreading the field, UA defensive backs Geno Smith, Vinnie Sunseri and Nick Perry will go a long way in determining whether the defense can get off the field.
For that reason, when considering potential postseason matchups, the Georgia offense would likely present the biggest challenge for Kirby Smart's defense. Even with two of its top receivers -- Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett -- out for the remainder of the season, the Bulldogs are better equipped to exploit the Alabama pass defense than, say, Notre Dame.
*Watching Kansas State stumble against carefree Baylor Saturday night reaffirmed the notion that the burden that comes with being ranked No. 1 isn't for everyone. In giving up a half hundred to the Bears in Waco, the Wildcats looked like a team that wanted no part of the pressure that comes with top billing.
*It's still early, but I didn't expect Anthony Grant's basketball team to rank third in the SEC in three-point field goal percentage through four games. At 41 percent, though, that's exactly where the Crimson Tide sits. UA shot 29 percent from 3 a season ago.
*As good as Marquis Maze was as a punt returner, I thought that was one area where Alabama might actually improve in 2012. It hasn't happened, although UA's 10.3 yard average so far this season isn't that far off last year's average of 12.3.
The biggest problem has been ball security as both Cyrus Jones and Christion Jones have put the ball on the ground in recent weeks. Injuries to Dee Hart (knee) and Chris Black (shoulder) took out a couple of options at the spot, so it may be the Joneses or bust at this point.
*After a record-setting run at Yulee (Fla.) High School that will see him amass more than 1,300 carries, Alabama commitment Derrick Henry might need a grayshirt followed up by a redshirt to recover. Even Vince Dooley thinks high school football's all-time leading rusher has been overworked.
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