Honestly, the suspense is killing me, and we haven't even gotten to the games this weekend. See, here's the issue that these teams are facing: Who will have the best résumé after championship Saturday?
Mississippi State might not go to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, but if the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss on Saturday, they'll be in position for that fourth spot (assuming the top three win out). But if No. 6 Ohio State wins out, the Buckeyes will be Big Ten champions. Say what you will about the strength of the Big Ten, the Buckeyes would have a conference championship and the fourth-ranked Bulldogs would not. Both would only have one loss.
2. Tired of the “kick-six” yet? I promise this will be the last link. But if you haven’t already, I suggest you go and read Jon Solomon’s piece on how the effects of one of the wildest finishes in college football history are still being felt. It will be worth your time. The Iron Bowl rivalry itself is known for the passion and animosity felt between the two fan bases, but it’s not always that way. Earlier this season, I wrote a story on Alabama quarterback Blake Sims and how he wore a bracelet in support of Kayla Perry, an Auburn student with a rare form of pediatric cancer. Well now, Perry and an Alabama student who has a similar condition will attend Saturday’s game thanks to Kristi Malzahn, wife of Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. Kristi surprised the two girls by inviting them to attend the game with her. Watch their story here.
3. Arkansas and Missouri might be cross-division foes that will meet every season unless the SEC changes its schedule. They might have a huge game this Friday with SEC title hopes on the line. But they’re not rivals, not yet at least. The two sides haven’t played in the regular season since 1963, and they have only met five times ever. Give it time, though. It’s already catching on with some of the players. “Arkansas, they have the word Kansas in it, so it’s got to be a rival,” said Missouri center Evan Boehm. One team who will be directed by Friday’s game is Georgia. If Missouri loses, the Bulldogs are headed to Atlanta for the SEC championship. However, Mark Richt is not planning any Arkansas-Missouri viewing parties for his team.
Around the SEC
- Corey Grant gets his last crack at the Tide three years after leaving Alabama for Auburn.
- Gators’ Jeff Driskel returns to Florida State as the last quarterback to beat the Seminoles.
- Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason has a new name for rival Tennessee: “the team out east.”
Congrats to @15_DakP on being named a finalist for the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards. Couldn't have happened to a better young man!— Brian Johnson (@BDJohnson3) November 26, 2014
Texas’ defense ready for final exam
There’s no school on Thanksgiving, but TCU presents a final exam for Texas’ defense, a unit that has rapidly improved during coach Charlie Strong’s first season. The Longhorns have allowed just one passing touchdown in the past four games (just nine all season) and only five third-down conversions in their opponents’ past 30 attempts.
Texas’ defense now ranks fifth nationally in adjusted QBR, 12th in yards per play, sixth in yards per pass attempt and eighth in sacks per passing play. It held Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to their lowest yards totals since 2007 and 2009, respectively. But TCU poses a different test with the nation’s most improved offense, led by the nation’s most improved player in quarterback Trevone Boykin.
“They play with five or six receivers, and he throws it to all of them, and the running backs. It’s going to be tough to slow these guys down.”
How can the Longhorns tame TCU?
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One woman is from Mulga, Alabama, the other from Clanton, Alabama.
They are both grandmothers of six.
One cheers for Alabama; the other for Auburn.
Like most college football fans in the gridiron-crazed state of Alabama, they're mortal enemies this week, as the No. 1 Crimson Tide prepares to play the No. 15 Tigers in Saturday's Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
"I've never met Tammy, but she really seems to be a sweet girl," said Phyllis Perkins, who is known as "Phyllis from Mulga" on the "Paul Finebaum Show," which airs on the ESPN-owned SEC Network. "But it's Iron Bowl week, so I don't know about her.
"She can probably hurt me physically because she's younger than me. No, I take that back. If she hits me, her ass is grass."
Among Finebaum's legion of loyal and colorful callers, there's none more famous than Perkins, a two-time cancer survivor, and Tammy Bullard, a loyal Auburn fan, who stepped across enemy lines when she married an Alabama fan last year.
In college football's craziest and often nastiest rivalry, Bullard and Perkins might very well be the First Ladies of the Iron Bowl.
"I think in some ways, they've meant everything to the show," Finebaum said. "They're the two people who, if I'm walking down a street in Birmingham or walking through LAX and someone recognizes me, they'll ask me about Tammy or Phyllis. I think they're the embodiment of what we do. They're both very genuine and they're real people."
Don't tell that to the Finebaum's listeners. If you've heard one of their weekly epic rants about the Crimson Tide or Tigers on the show, you might think they make Harvey Updyke seem normal.
Finebaum: Let's grab some more calls. And Tammy -- can't wait to hear this call -- from Alabama. Hey, Tammy.
And the SEC got another team bowl eligible, as Arkansas earned its sixth win with a 30-0 victory over Ole Miss. So that's 11 bowl-eligible teams and counting in the SEC, including the entire SEC West.
As we head into the final week of regular-season play ahead of the SEC championship game, two teams have a shot at claiming bowl eligibility that haven't already: Kentucky and Tennessee. Kentucky's task is tough, going to No. 22 Louisville, Tennessee's is considerably more feasible, as the Volunteers travel to Vanderbilt.
Georgia, if it wins this weekend against Georgia Tech, looks to be in good position for a New Year's Six bid. There's still much to be decided, with the Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl on deck. Alabama and Mississippi State must win to maintain their spots, if they don't, chaos will ensue.
But assuming the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs prevail, here's how we think it'll pan out as of today, with 12 SEC bowl-eligible teams projected:
College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
College Football Playoff semifinal (Sugar Bowl): Mississippi State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Georgia
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Ole Miss
TaxSlayer Bowl: Florida
Outback Bowl: Missouri
AdvoCare 100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Tennessee
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: South Carolina
Birmingham Bowl: Arkansas
For the first time this season, the top seven teams in the College Football Playoff Top 25 have remained the same, as determined by 11 members of the 12-member selection committee (Mike Tranghese was sick and unable to travel to Dallas for the meetings).
No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Mississippi State each won in Week 13, and in spite of another close win for the Seminoles, FSU did not drop another spot. The only difference at the top was that No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 Georgia and No. 10 Michigan State all slid up one notch to take the spot of Ole Miss, which sank nine spots to No. 19 after being shut out by Arkansas.
Here's what the bracket would look like today:
TCU is still the first team on the bubble at No. 5, followed by No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Baylor. No. 11 Arizona jumped four spots, and No. 17 Missouri is up three spots. Another big mover was No. 18 Minnesota, which rose seven spots after beating Nebraska.
The biggest surprise this week was that not one but two Group of 5 teams were ranked: No. 23 Boise State and No. 24 Marshall. It was a controversial call, as Boise State is a two-loss team just one win away from clinching the Mountain West's Mountain Division, and Marshall is the only undefeated team remaining in the Group of 5. Marshall has already clinched the Conference USA East title.
Marshall is ranked No. 19 in the latest Associated Press poll, followed by No. 21 Colorado State and No. 25 Boise State. This is the first time since Week 10, when East Carolina was ranked in the selection committee's first Top 25, that the Group of 5 has been represented in the CFP rankings.
That would make Boise State the frontrunner to represent the Group of 5 in a New Year's Six Bowl.
As for the other major bowls, here's a projection based on the current rankings:
The Orange Bowl lost the ACC champion (FSU) so it gets the next highest-ranked ACC team, No. 16 Georgia Tech. The Orange Bowl then selects the next highest-ranked nonconference championship team from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame. By contract, displaced conference champs from the SEC and Big Ten don't go to the Orange Bowl. That would pit the Yellow Jackets against No. 10 Michigan State because the committee would look to avoid a rematch with No. 9 Georgia.
Here's what New Year's Eve and New Year's Day could look like, based on today's rankings:
12:30 p.m. ET -- Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl -- No. 9 Georgia vs. No. 7 Baylor
4 p.m. ET -- VIZIO Fiesta Bowl -- No. 23 Boise State vs. No. 8 UCLA
8 p.m. ET -- Capital One Orange Bowl -- No. 16 Georgia Tech vs. No. 10 Michigan State
12:30 p.m. ET -- Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic -- No. 5 TCU vs. No. 6 Ohio State
5 p.m. ET -- Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual -- No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State
8:30 p.m. ET -- Allstate Sugar Bowl -- No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Mississippi State
Things stayed the same at the top of the latest unveiling of the College Football Playoff rankings, but one team took quite the tumble down the list.
Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State are again the top four teams in the CFP rankings; in fact, the top seven teams from last week's rankings remain unchanged. TCU, Ohio State and Baylor held steady at the Nos. 5-7 spots.
Mississippi, however, took a spill, going from No. 8 last week all the way down to No. 19 after an embarrassing 30-0 road loss to Arkansas that was the Rebels' third straight SEC defeat.
As a result of Ole Miss' fall, UCLA, fresh off its win over rival USC, moved up to No. 8. Georgia and Michigan State rounded out the top 10. The Spartans benefited from the Rebels' fall, moving back into the top 10 after landing at No. 11 the previous week.
Further down the rankings is the battle to see which school from outside the Power 5 conferences will earn a guaranteed spot in a New Year's bowl. Boise State
The Iron Bowl is like no other rivalry in sports. From Bear Bryant to Bo Jackson to Harvey Updyke, there's simply nothing that compares to Alabama vs. Auburn. It has turned players such as Van Tiffin and Chris Davis into legends. It's where the term "house divided" originated. It's on the minds of the coaches, players and fans 365 days a year.
If you haven't been a part of it, it's hard to understand. But to help with that, here's a look at the Iron Bowl rivalry from those closest to it:
Jay Jacobs, athletics director, Auburn
On the significance of the Iron Bowl: "It's a rivalry that is different than anything else because we all live together. Some rivalries are divided by borders, but this one has no borders. You're living with each other year round after that game. When you win that game, you have a little bit more pride and when you lose it, the other team has a little bit more pride."
Shaun Alexander, former Alabama running back
On his first Iron Bowl: "You could tell that it mattered, that it mattered more than anything else. You were like 'wow.' This is not the Super Bowl, this is not the SEC championship game, but this game matters. Of course, football matters. You're at Alabama for a little bit and you realize every game you've got to win it all. But there's just a little something extra. Everybody's going to hit a little bit harder. Everybody's going to play a little bit harder and give a little bit more of their self. And that's from the players on the field to the fans and how they cheer and how they watch the game. Everybody's going to be a little bit more into it. The game is just special because of that. No matter who you are, when you're into this thing and you pick your side, then you care. That was just special all the way around."
Nick Saban, head coach, Alabama
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Week 14 Picks: Auburn-Alabama
12:00 PM ET South Carolina 21 Clemson 12:00 PM ET 16 Georgia Tech 9 Georgia 12:00 PM ET Kentucky 22 Louisville 3:30 PM ET Florida 3 Florida State 3:30 PM ET 4 Mississippi State 19 Ole Miss 4:00 PM ET Tennessee Vanderbilt 7:45 PM ET 15 Auburn 1 Alabama