Jalen Hurts. Really, this is the only answer considering the multiple layers to this story, right? Dude gets replace. His replacement has a Heisman season for the ages. He is left to be the fan-appreciated back-up with some mop-up time and wondering what his future is. Well, that wonder will still be other there, and as his dad said during the offseason, Hurts will be the most coveted college football agent in history. But future be danged this weekend, as Hurts cemented his place in Alabama football lore with an epic, off-the-bench perfect-season-saving performance for the ages Saturday in Mercedes Benz.
Whitwell. Wow, what an end to a dream season for the Tigers, huh? A 7-6 state-title game win to cap a perfect 15-0 season. Lifetime memories right there friends. Lifetime.
Vegas. Yes there was a ton of action this weekend. So went Vegas' way. So did not. But, as of Saturday night, there was not a single bet on the board this season that had more public backing that the Colts -4 over the Jags with Cody Kessler at quarterback and no Leonard Fournette. The result: Football happened, and the Jags shut out the Colts 6-0. Why? Because football.
USC. With all the young talent on the USC offense, there were some expected ups and downs this season. It almost cost coach Clay Helton his gig. He jettisoned several assistants. He has found his OC in Kliff Kinsgbury, though, and we think that may be as good of an assistant hire that will be made this offseason. Perfect fit.
L.A. Rams. As all the contenders in the NFL — and a lot of the good-to-great QBs — struggled, the Rams just keep on keepin' on.
Kareem Hunt. Good-bye. Good riddance. And if his allegations Sunday on ESPN are true that the NFL declined to question him about the Febraury incident in which Hunt was caught on tape hitting and kicking a female, then heads need to roll at corrupt too. And considering that repeat offender Reuben Foster has already been claimed by an NFL team, it will be interesting to see if anyone tries to sign Hunt. (Side note: The NFL is investigating another violent allegation against Hunt and this one was against a dude. Man, the irony of the NFL acting to on the second incident against a man if they indeed tried to cover-up Hunt's attack on a woman is so think. And awful. Roger Goodell better have some answers because someone's got some 'splainin' to do.
Kirby Smart. Dude is on the shortlist of the best coaches in college football. And when that debate comes around, Kirby best hope that no one introduces Saturday's game tape into evidence. Georgia was right there — and we'll discuss the playoff four in a moment — and in our view gave Alabama it's toughest of the season. (There's no debate that it was the toughest test so far; we also believe it will be the toughest test between Alabama and its next two wins for a natty.) Georgia went limp after the break, and often that tension and conservatism comes from the top. And unless Justin Fields has been the upback on the punt team all year, did Kirby and Co. think that the top-rated freshman quarterback in the country was going to go unnoticed? Against Bama? As for the "we took too long to snap it," then call time out and adjust. You're the Dude. Be the dude. And while we are here, the "Georgia has a huge edge in the kicking game" argument was rendered moot when ol' Horned Rims hooked a 30-yarder that would have put the Bulldogs up 31-14 midway through the third.
Georgia fans. We have a few in the family. The Mrs. 5-at-10 graduated from Athens in 1999. We know there are several die-hards on here, like Julie C. and Alejandro, who is in school there currently. (Mood on campus this morning, Alejandro?) We also know that having Alabama on the ropes is a rarity. For everyone and anyone. There are levels of losing. The expected loss. The blowout loss that allows in-game time for acceptance to where the postgame feelings are not as painful. The give-away loss, which hurts, but eventually becomes more of a question — of players, coaches, direction, etc. — than an emotional hang-up. The bad-call loss — be it coach or official — and those also have explanations and narratives to dampen the angst. There's the miracle-finish loss, which is likely No. 2 on the painful scale, but also can come with some rationales of "That's the way the ball bounces" or "Better to be lucky than good." And then there is the total gut-punch loss. It has everything. Huge stakes for the team/program depending on what a win would mean. Your team, for the most part, plays its tail off. It hurts to a point that you question your fandom, as in "Am I too involved?" and "Why do I invest this much?" And in truth, all things considered, if you take out the 'blowout loss' Georgia fans suffered some of all of those levels of losing Saturday, especially the gut-punch. I know it is of little value right now, but wow, what an effort. And Georgia is going to be better next year.
Pittsburgh Steelers. On a day when "football happened" all around the NFL, the Sunday night collapse of the Steelers was eye-poppingly historic. Check this stat, according to Elias: Pittsburgh at home was 174-0-1 in games in which they had a 16-point lead at any point. After turning a 23-7 lead — which also featured a missed PAT, and you can extrapolate the math implications from that — into a 33-30 loss to the Chargers, that number is now 174-1-1.
Bonus pick: Americans everywhere. George H.W. Bush died over the weekend, and for a lot of us, it really felt like a big chunk of the decency and dialog and decorum in politics — things that have been fading for a while — in some ways died with him. There was a time friends, when you could disagree with someone politically and it not turn into a shouting match/Twitter storm/Fake News event. Thanks 41 for your service to your country.
Fab 4 picks. We limped home with a 2-4 finish with a couple of outcomes that were right there between Ishtar and the Disorderlies on the entertainment scale. We still think the over is the right side in every Oklahoma game, and the that game was under by roughly one score with a slew of over-busting — too many field goals, a fumble going in for a TD, missed open receivers on each team, etc. — details Saturday. That was not as painful as, say, Buffalo, which led 29-10 with 21 minutes to play and the ball near midfield only to lose 30-29 on a 35-yard TD pass with a minute left. Or MTSU, which got field goals on its four red-zone trips and failed on a fourth-and-2 at the UAB 26 in a 27-25 loss to UAB. Or the overtime coin flip snowfest that was a Boise State loss to Fresno State. So it goes friends. We finished the regular season at 52-38-2, which is 57.7 percent on the season. (After talking to a local entertainment broker this weekend, since all ties are considered neither a win nor a loss — just a no bet — the ties are not counted on either side of the percentages.) So, on to the bowls. We have one more pick to close the regular season: We will take Army minus-7 (buy the half) over Navy this weekend
OK, a year of posturing left us almost exactly where a lot of the preseason folks expected, believe it or not.
In the AP preseason college football poll, Alabama and Clemson were 1 and 2. They were the 1 and 2 seeds respectively when the four-team college football playoff field was announced Sunday.
Notre Dame was No. 3 and will face Clemson in Dallas on Dec. 29. Notre Dame was 12 in the preseason rankings.
Oklahoma rounded out the field at 4 and will lose to Alabama in Miami on Dec. 29. The Sooners were 7 in the preseason poll.
Of course the last spot — that No. 4 spot — was the one that was somewhat in flux for the committee before Sunday's announcement.
Could it be Georgia, which played Alabama to the brink in the SEC title game? Well, the eye test showed most of us that Georgia certainly looks like one of the four best teams in college football.
Could it be THE Ohio State, which won the Big Ten title game over Northwestern on Saturday night? Sure. THE Ohio State has as much talent on the field as anyone, and it's effort over Michigan may have been the single most impressive win of the season all-things considered.
Could it be UCF, which rallied without star quarterback McKenzie Milton and from a monster hole to beat Memphis for its 25th consecutive win. Not really. (But gang, the numbers of UCF's streak are pretty staggering: The Knights score 30 or more in each of those 25 wins in a row; 17 of those 25 wins were by 15 points or more.)
So there were three for No. 4.
Georgia was the best team but was the only one with two losses, including a three-score loss to LSU. THE Ohio State had a blowout loss to a .500 Purdue bunch.
So that left Oklahoma, which used the conference championship game to avenge its only loss of the season against rival Texas.
And we agree with that.
One of the main reasons we are against expanding the playoff is the devaluing of the regular season. If you likewise believe that, then you have to back Oklahoma. Otherwise, you are basing your pick off last Saturday in Atlanta for Georgia or the Saturday before in Columbus, Ohio for THE Buckeyes.
Plus, and I know we discussed them some, but considering the way it played out, there had to be some discussion about whether Alabama deserved the reward of not having to beat Georgia in a round-two semifinal, if that makes sense. Putting Georgia back into the 4 is not really fair for Alabama, you know?
And we think Georgia would beat Oklahoma if the two played, but Oklahoma handled its business, week-in, week-out better than the Bulldogs did this year. And for that, I think the committee got it right. (As for the committee's decision to leave Washington State out of the NY6, well, that one I did not agree with.
Here's what Kirby and Urban said at news conferences after the field was announced, and truth be told, the lack of politicking/bellyaching from those guys was 100 percent the best way to handle it:
Coach Smart: "I wasn't surprised by it. We did what we could, went out and played a great Alabama football team in what was a great football game, but we respect the decision of the committee and certainly respect the job they have to do in making that decision."
Coach Liar: "The last thing we're going to do is stand up here and criticize the committee. We're not going to do that. Sometimes I see the criteria, and the criteria's not fitting what's happening. That was a tough job, now. Those are three really good teams. We're one of those great teams that obviously didn't make it. That's a tough decision to make."
(While we are here, let's look at the field of we go to eight: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Georgia, THE Ohio State, Michigan and Washington. Michigan was ranked ahead of UCF in the committee and Washington won the conference title. Is that field better or more complete or more deserving? Not really. It's just more. Washington did not do enough to be in the playoff, and Michigan pooped itself in its two toughest games. And if we are going to talk about the value of Saturdays in the fall, if/when we expand to all the Power 5 conference champs and three at-larges, then every non-conference game ever scheduled will not ultimately matter for the loser beyond seeding, right? If we had eight this year, that Washington loss to Auburn is gone. So is that Notre Dame-Michigan game, and several others. Where were we?)
So the from Labor Day to this morning, the chase of the dream has been filled with blowouts and "Oh My Goodness" moments.
And the final four is a combined 50-1.
This and that
— Meant to get this in somewhere, but can we save about 10 cups of the sanctimony from the likes of Herbstriet, et al., about how Jalen Hurts staying at Alabama is a great example for college football, and a testimony of sticking with it. Does that change when Hurts transfers in a month? What about the coaches who pick up and roll out because as they say, "They have to do what's right for their family" in the next few weeks? What about the high school stars who are about to be recruited and signed to, if everything works how the programs want, are going to be better and potentially take the jobs of the current players on the team. Yes, this is a storybook ending for Hurts, and it's a great story for sure. But let's dial back the "college football loyalty" narrative by a factor of about 12 please. Loyalty is an occasional connection when it suits a talking point in college sports these days — we know coaches leave, players transfer and I know first-hand of fans who want their teams to lose so the coach will get fired point out the loyalty in any of those please — but if you are picking and choosing when 'loyalty' matters, then that's not loyalty. That's convenience.
— Wow the Falcons stink, and there are whispers that Dan Quinn may not survive this freefall. Atlanta was manhandled in almost every phase by a complete Baltimore bunch that had a tailback at quarterback. Side note: Time to pull the plug Falcons and improve that draft spot. And how about next weeks' Disappointment Bowl brought to you Prozac and Zoloft? Falcons at Packers. Can't wait.
— The Packers fired Mike McCarthy Sunday, about two years too late.
— The Titans are not real good either, but a win's a win, even if it's over the Jets and one of the McCowns.
— This bus crash that left 40 injured and a child dead is an awful, heartbreaking story. Say a prayer friends.
— Bill Snyder is retiring from Kansas State. He's 136 years old. In dog years.
— Here's the early list of known early enrollees for the NFL draft. No big surprises there, and the list certainly will grow between now and the Jan. 18 deadline. Side note: Here's betting that we will smash the record for draft-bound players who sit out or have an 'injury' for the team's bowl game this postseason.
Weekend winners and losers. Please share.
We'll ask an open-ended question as we try to make our Georgia regulars feel somewhat better this morning/mourning: Biggest gut-punch loss for your team? Go.
As for today, Dec. 3, the first official U.S. flag was raised aboard a naval vessel on this day in 1775. 'Murica.
Ozzy Osbourne is 70. Dear goodness that makes me feel old.
Today is also the international day of persons with disabilities, national apple pie day and and national green bean casserole day.
We are tempted to ask for the Rushmore of casseroles, but we will go here:
Today is national hug day.
Rushmore of all-time hugs. Go, and be creative.