TRips: Wednesday morning thoughts

Random thoughts and observations on a Wednesday morning:

Jones' return to practice was a welcomed sight for Alabama fans.

*College football's most important news on New Year's Day didn't originate in Pasadena, Orlando, Tampa or Miami Gardens. No, it came from Tuscaloosa, where Alabama center Barrett Jones took part in his first workout of the Crimson Tide's preparation for Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.

Most encouraging was the fact that the senior moved well during the brief time reporters were allowed inside the workout. Now the question is, how will Jones' injured left foot respond to the work? That's something we probably won't learn until Thursday, when UA conducts its first on-site practice in South Florida.

*While Georgia's Aaron Murray put up huge numbers (427 passing yards and five touchdowns) in the Bulldogs' 45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, I've got to go with Clemson's Tajh Boyd for the top performance by a quarterback in a bowl game to date this postseason.

With wide receiver Sammy Watkins going down early in the Tigers' 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Boyd literally carried the Clemson offense, running or passing on 79 of the Tigers' 100 offensive snaps.

*Clemson's Dabo Swinney is perfect in his last three games against SEC West competition, but 0-4 in his last four against the SEC East (all losses to South Carolina). Overall, Swinney is 5-5 against SEC competition as the Tigers' head coach. Clemson will open the 2013 season at home against Georgia.

*It's all fun and games with Les Miles until an LSU team with national title-caliber talent finishes the season with three losses. For those keeping count, the Tigers' have lost at least three games in three of their last five seasons.

*Alabama erased an 11-point second-half deficit in Atlanta by running the football, while LSU surrendered an 11-point, second-half lead in Atlanta because it didn't run the ball enough. Only stat that mattered in the Tigahs' loss to Clemson: Zero carries in the fourth quarter for Jeremy Hill, who piled up 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in the first three stanzas.

*Clemson ran 34 offensive plays in the fourth quarter against LSU. The Tigahs responded by squeezing off six offensive snaps and three punts in the final quarter.

*Notre Dame's inside linebackers are quick to jump Power O run action (involves a guard pulling and leading the way on an inside run), which leaves the middle of the field open to the passing game. If I can see this, I'm sure Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier can too.

*ESPN did its best to hype the Rose Bowl but the bottom line is that for fans outside of Pac-12 and B1G markets, the game is a parade with a football game serving as the final float.

*You could just sense the giddiness coming from around the country when it looked as if the SEC was headed for an 0-3 showing on New Year's Day. On a day when the games were essentially meaningless, South Carolina and Georgia still managed to break a lot of hearts.

*Jadeveon Clowney's big hit and fumble recovery all but cemented the defensive end's trip to New York for next year's Heisman Trophy ceremony. Forget about the fact that Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan more than held his own while working against Clowney for much of the game; South Carolina's freakishly talented sophomore made the kind of early impression on voters that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

*Won't be surprised to hear Dan Mullen's name mentioned with some of the college jobs that are likely to open up after the first round of NFL hires. Eight wins is pretty much the ceiling for Mullen in Starkville.

*Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez was a real sweetheart for taking over the head coaching reins for the Badgers' Rose Bowl matchup with Stanford. I mean, not many administrators who take home $1 million per would tag along for a trip to SoCal for an extra $118,500.

*Alabama's last non-conference loss came at the hands of Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide has reeled off 18 straight non-conference victories since. UA lost more non-conference games (two) in Nick Saban's first season in Tuscaloosa than it has in the five that have followed.

*Vanderbilt, Rice and Northwestern all won bowl games. Maybe the Mayans had it right after all.

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