22 November 2011
The University of Alabama football team worked inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility on Tuesday, escaping some pretty terrible weather. The Tide practiced in full pads as it continued its preparation for the Auburn Tigers.
Here's what you need to know:
Unfortunately, starting dime safety Will Lowery has been lost for the year to an ACL injury. Though he is just a junior, the walk-on is expected to graduate in December and end his football career by watching the Tide play in their bowl game this January.
The injury news for everyone else is good.
Barrett Jones was practicing at left tackle on Tuesday, which allowed Alfred McCullough to move back to right guard. McCullough and Anthony Steen will spend the rest of the week battling it out for the starting spot this Saturday.
Josh Chapman (knee) and Jesse Williams (food poisoning/shoulder) were both back working with the first unit defensive line. Chapman would have played last Saturday had the game been in doubt. Williams had a bout of food poisoning that probably helped him rest a shoulder he injured in the Mississippi State game.
Darius Hanks was also back working with the receivers during individual drills. Coach Saban had indicated that Hanks might not be back as quickly as the others, so him being cleared for contact this early in the week is a good indication that he'll play on Saturday.
The other bit of really good news is that freshman Dee Hart was back at practice after missing a couple of weeks due to "personal issues." The fact that he is back and practicing is an indication that he's worked out whatever it was that he needed to work out. The fact that he was practicing is a white jersey during the media viewing period is a good indication that his injured knee is still progressing well. He apparently changed back to black after the media left, possibly indicating that he is not quite ready to play.
As for replacing the aforementioned Lowery... there are several candidates, but no one is an obvious choice. The fact that Will was able to hold on to his spot for two seasons despite the arrival of several superior athletes is an indication of his knowledge of the defense, but likely also an indication of where the guys behind him are in their understanding of the defense. The most likely two candidates to replac him are Jarrick Williams (sliding into the same role), or Phelon Jones (with DeQuan Menzie sliding into Lowery's spot). Nick Perry, Vinnie Sunseri, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have all played at safety this season and could be a possibility, as well.
Otherwise, as expected, Bama is playing things pretty close to the vest. That should come as no shock to anyone.
Moving on from practice a bit... there are a lot of incorrect things being posted on various blogs and message boards about certain scenarios involving the Tide and post season play. There are also a lot of opinions about what Bama should and should not pull for this coming week.
Fact - Bama still has a chance to represent the SEC West in Atlanta. If Arkansas beats LSU this weekend, and the Tide takes care of business in Auburn, Bama could play for the SEC Title. The three way tie between Bama, LSU, and Arkansas would force the conference to go the 7th tie breaker before determining who plays for the title.
The 7th tie breaker is the BCS Standings. An LSU loss would likely mean that Bama would be ranked #1, but would not guarantee that Bama would play in Atlanta. If the top two teams are separated by less than five spots, then the tie breaker system would reboot between those two teams, and the winner of the head to head match-up between them would face Georgia.
So, in order for Alabama to play in the SEC Championship Game, Arkansas would have to move ahead of LSU in the BCS Standings. While that seems likely, a closer look at things shows that it might not be that easy. LSU is ranked #1 by all of the six computer polls, while Arkansas is placed 4th in the combined computer rankings. Obviously a win by Arkansas and a loss by LSU would impact that, but it might not be enough to allow the Hogs to jump over LSU, especially if the Tigers were to only fall to #3 in the human polls.
If LSU were to only fall to #2, they would go to the SEC Title Game by virtue of their win against Alabama.
Fact - it is possible for there to be three SEC teams in BCS games, but not possible for all three to be SEC West teams.
If Arkansas were to beat LSU, but not move ahead of the Tigers, we would likely see the BCS Standings as - #1 Alabama, #2 LSU, #3 Arkansas. If that were the case, and LSU then proceeded to lose to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, we could see three SEC teams in the BCS.
In that scenario, we would likely see Alabama play Arkansas in the BCS Championship Game, while Georgia would receive an automatic bid to play in the Sugar Bowl.
The same basic scenario would come in to play if Arkansas jumped LSU and the Tigers fell to #3. If Bama then lost to Georgia, LSU and Arkansas would likely play for the BCS Championship and Georgia would play in the Sugar Bowl.
Fact - it is possible for the #3 team in the BCS Standings on December 4th to not play in a BCS Bowl. If the outcome of the LSU vs Arkansas game leaves those three teams at the top of the standings (as an Arkansas win likely would), and the SEC West Champion wins the SEC Championship Game, then the BCS Title Game would feature #1 vs. #2, and the #3 team would be left to go to either the Cotton Bowl or the Capital One Bowl.
The BCS does limit each conference to two teams, unless the scenario mentioned above were to happen. If two teams from the same conference are ranked #1 and #2, but neither wins their conference, there is a provision that allows for that conference champion to still earn its conference's automatic bid.
The fact that there is a realistic chance of that happening should tell you exactly how crazy this college football season has been.
Fact - I hate orange. It has nothing to do with the BCS Standings, or Bama's hopes of playing for the BCS Championships. I just hadn't mentioned it yet, and it is Auburn week. And since Oklahoma State also wears orange, it sort of applies.
So what should we hope for? Many national pundits think that a Bama win Saturday guarantees that the Tide plays for the title. I'm not so certain.
If LSU beats Arkansas, that would likely drop the Hogs below Oklahoma State in the two human polls. An impressive win by Oklahoma State over Oklahoma on December 3rd could possibly allow the Cowboys to move as high as #3 in the human polls. If that happens, Oklahoma State could jump Alabama by virtue of the fact that they are currently ranked #2 by the combined computer score.
If enough voters in the USA Today and Harris Poll are swayed by the idea of not wanting to see a rematch, things could get very tight. Bama's lead over Oklahoma State is quite large right now, but that could change quickly. If the Tide plays an ugly and close game against Auburn and Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma soundly, I would be very concerned that we might see the Cowboys get a chance to play for the title.
The fact that Bama would be sitting at home while the Cowboys were putting on a show for the national media against Oklahoma would not make me very comfortable.
Having said that, I think that Oklahoma is going to beat Oklahoma State, and the next three teams in the BCS poll - Virginia Tech, Stanford, and Boise State - would have no chance of jumping the Tide.
While the idea of not having to play another game after Saturday seems appealing, the only way to 100% guarantee that Bama plays for the title is for the Tide to win the SEC.
If Arkansas beats LSU, and the Hogs move up to #2, Bama would play Georgia as the #1 team in the BCS Standings. There is no team that would be able to jump the Tide if Bama went to to beat Georgia on that final Saturday. Arkansas, LSU, and Oklahoma State would be in a three-way battle (unless the Cowboys lost to Oklahoma) to determine the Tide's opponent.
So while Alabama's chances of making the BCS Championship Game are still high if the Tide does not play for the SEC Championship, they are not as high as they would be if Bama was the SEC Champion.
Of course, a loss to Georgia would eliminate Bama from the conversation.
So... I'll ask again - what do we want to see this weekend?
The answer is simple. We want to see Alabama beat Auburn. We want to see Alabama beat Auburn badly. Like, 2008 badly. 36-0 would not likely be enough to make us all forget last November, but it would be a start. All of that would be true even if there were no BCS implications on the game. That there are BCS implications means that it's not just a wild desire. It's what needs to happen.
If Bama can soundly defeat Auburn, I think it drastically lessens the chance of Oklahoma State managing to jump the Tide.
Past that... hope that Virginia Tech and Stanford continue to win. Those teams remaining ahead of Oklahoma State (or at least siphoning points in the BCS formula from OSU) would make it next to impossible. Also hope that Boise State Houston keep winning. They won't jump over Oklahoma State, but they could hurt the Cowboys overall BCS score by virtue of one or two voters having them above the Cowboys.
Pull for Arkansas or LSU based on your own opinion of whether or not you want to risk possibly missing a chance to play for the National Championship in order to win another SEC Championship. Bama has played them both, so the outcome of the game isn't likely to affect the Tide's computer ranking.
Me? I want to win it all. "All" includes the SEC Championship. Winning #14 won't be quite as sweet without winning #23 first. While I would like to have revenge against LSU, I want to win championships more. Arkansas would be a tougher match-up this time around, especially if Knile Davis plays, but they don't have the defense to beat the Tide.
I also see an LSU loss basically guaranteeing Bama's spot in the BCS Championship Game. Even if Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas split the first place votes in the USA Today and Harris Poll, those extra voter points would put a huge distance between those three teams and Oklahoma State. An Arkansas loss moves Oklahoma State one spot closer to the Tide in those polls, helping to close the BCS gap.
I love the idea of sitting at home on December 3rd and watching LSU have to play a physical game against Georgia. But I hate the idea of watching the BCS announcement the next night and seeing the Tide matched up with Houston or Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. It wouldn't be likely, but it would be possible.
Got a headache yet? Need a break from the BCS nonsense? There is an easy solution, even if it is just for two hours. Alabama plays home basketball games on Wednesday night (against Alabama A&M) and Sunday night (against Final Four team VCU). If you haven't watched Bama's hoops squad this year, make a trip to Coleman for one of those games (or both). They are fun to watch, and actually have the talent to compete this year.
Otherwise, it'll just be BCS drama for another week and a half.
Bama will practice again tomorrow, and we'll have our normal report after the Tide basketball game.
And, in case you forgot... I hate orange.
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