Alabama head coach Nick Saban paces during warmups before an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

SEC rankings

Yes, we'll get to the College Football Playoff rankings in a moment. Good stuff.

But we have to order the SEC first. Since it's November and the season is winding down tear sigh let's focus on the bowl picture across the best conference in college football.

Side note: Dabo Swinney is already politicking for his team, defending his team's schedule and wondering aloud who in the SEC has topped Alabama. Alabama is No. 3 in the playoff rankings — again, more on that in a moment — in large part because of schedule devoid of a signature win to this point. But Dabo. Dabo, Dabo, Dabo. Dude, first, R-E-L-A-X. Second, are you really trying to compare the ACC to the SEC these days? Really? The ACC that has Wake in the 20s as the second-best team in the rankings against an SEC that has five in the top 11? OK. That makes Dabo look as crazy as it does desperate at this point. C'mon Dabo. Be better than this.)

The SEC has a pile of bowl tie-ins. Comes with the territory of being the best in the country, no matter what Dabo thinks.

So as the season winds down, teams looking to make bowls and looking to improve their bowl appeal is a big story.

Here's our top-five, bottom-three from Dabo's second favorite league:

1. LSU. I think they are the best team in the league (and that THE Ohio State is the best team in the country), but I think the divide is so thin that I believe Auburn would have beaten LSU if a) that game was in Lee County, Ala., and b) the AU Tigers got just mediocre QB play. Sigh.

2. Alabama. I think LSU is better, but I think the Tide wins Saturday. Go figure right?

3. Georgia. I think the Bulldogs have a tall order to actually get into the playoff without a lot of help. That said, I also think laying the points with Georgia moving forward makes sense because I believe the Fighting' Kirbys will need style points.

4. Florida. So it goes.

5. Auburn. Read the above. I love you Derrick Brown.

12. Mississippi State. The Bulldogs ran for a billion yards and beat Arkansas by half a million points. What if the SEC and say the AAC had European soccer rules that had the worst team moving to a lower league, and the best team from that league moved up. The SEC could be intrigued by swapping Memphis and Arkansas right now.

13. Vandy. A trip to Florida — which is seething after the Cocktail Party loss — with your third-strong QB. Ouch-standing.

14. Arkansas. Saw the lines this week: Arkansas minus-1.5 over Western Kentucky. Seriously.


Playoff rankings

OK, you know the numbers by now. THE Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Penn State, Clemson, Georgia, Oregon, Utah. That's the top eight in the view of the college football playoff committee.

Yes, this is another spot for the R-E-L-A-X reminder. The schedule in November, starting with Saturday's LSU-Bama title fight, has a slew of heavyweight showdowns.

(Speaking of that, hey Dabo, did you know that every team in the top 10 of the committee's view has a chance to play and beat another top-11 team before the end of the year except one? Want to guess which one team does not have a top-11 foe on the horizon? We'll wait.)

As for the playoff committee rankings, the spots are interchangeable right now because of the road ahead. Here's more from TFP college football poobah David Paschall.

So forget the numbers — R-E-L-A-X, Dabo — and let's look at the trends, and some of them are perplexing.

OK, I'm fine with THE Ohio State at 1. They have looked like the most complete team all year, and if I was in that room and the differences between THE Ohio State and LSU are being bounced around, while LSU-backers can say, "Wins at Texas, and at home over Florida and LSU" the counter-argument is that "THE OSU would never have allowed 38 points to Vandy." Crickets.

But the incongruity of the thought process are some puzzling.

THE Ohio State 1 and Alabama 3 are clearly eye-test choices, so there's that.

Penn State over Clemson (Hi Dabo) is a résumé choice.

Georgia over Oregon is a "Who have you beat?" reasoning, as Georgia has wins over Florida and Notre Dame.

But further down the, "Good loss" argument is clearly in play for Auburn to be that highly regarded.

And the biggest loser this morning is the Big 12, because while Minnesota is inexplicably 17th despite being unbeaten, the committee clearly does not like Baylor, which is coming off a sluggish-at-best, three-point escape against a mediocre-to-below-average West Virginia.

It begs the question that even if Baylor runs the table, will the Bears be left out over a once-beaten power program in front of them?  


Ball is tipped

OK, college hoops tipped in earnest last night across the country.

There was something like 150 games last night. Yes, there were two monster match-ups, and we'll get to those.

Let's review what we saw on day one of the marathon (and at times meaningless) march to March:

> We are not going to say it was a good win for Tennessee — UNC-Asheville was like 4-102 last year — but, cue the Seth Greenberg cliché machine"It's better than a bad loss." (The Seth G Cliché Machine is currently in the copyright process, and it's process is simple: Put a team in a sentence, pull the old-school, slot-machine-like lever, and out comes a cliché that makes you shake your head. Let's try it together. Kansas must address(pull lever) it's ability to take care of the basketball, because (pulls lever again) turnovers will kill you. Never fails.) Still, if Yves Pons becomes a reliable 10-12 points-a-game guy, then Tennessee is going to be better than we expected.

> Yes, the shiny 1-2, 3-4 match-ups took the spotlight of college hoops last night, but the best story may have been in the Lone Star State. Andrew Jones scored 20 off the bench for Texas. It's his first game back since going through Leukemia treatment. These are the moments that we remember how much we love sports, right?

> OK, we mentioned it this time Tuesday, and we should have been on Memphis minus-whatever (the line was minus-25.5 and the Tigers won by 33) against South Carolina State last night. Yes, SCSU was overmatched, but Penny is going to pound people. Period.

> UTC played last night. UTC lost last night. Hey, Lamont Paris has convinced everyone in and around the program — Weeds vouches for him and his skill set, and that's enough for me — he's the man to do this job, but at some point seeing is believing for those of us on the outside of the program. And that believe comes from winning. Here's more from TFP UTC beat ace Lindsey Young.

> As for the showdowns, well, I said it yesterday, and I'll say it again, man it feels like Tom Izzo consistently comes up short in games of evenly matched teams, no? Not to take anything away from the effort of UK (Congrats Chas) and the shooting exploits of Tyrese Maxey, but Michigan State was supposed to be the more experienced, the more tested and the tougher bunch. It was not. As for the first game, I believe this will be a seven-plus-loss Duke team. Where are the stars? Yes, that got a couple of young kids who will be good, but when you are a one-and-done program, you need young dudes who are already good. Plus, Duke is going to get everyone's best shot every night — especially on the road — and they can not expect teams to hand them 30 turnovers like Kansas did last night. That said, when Kansas figures out its rotation, that is a collection of dudes and a mix of young five-stars and experienced contributors that I am pencilling into the Final Four right now. Seriously.



This and that

— Everyone around these parts knows you need to follow Stephen Hargis (@stephenhargis on Twitter) on social media for all the details of all the area high school stuff. Here's live online coverage of McCallie defensive lineman Jay Hardy picking Auburn over Tennessee and Georgia earlier this morning.

— Speaking of college hoops, congrats Kellie Harper on winning her first game as the UT Lady Vols coach. Bring 'em back Coach. Women's college basketball is much more interesting when the Lady Vols are relevant. Here's more from Gene of Many Hats Henley, the TFP UT beat ace.

— Let the rumbling begin, but this is a deal that has both sides of the conversation: We have a national NBA broadcast tonight with the best player in the league (Kawhi Leonard) playing the reigning MVP (Giannis Antetokounmpo) in a rematch of superstars that faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals. And Kawhi is sitting this one out for 'load management.' It's the Clippers one visit to Milwaukee. It's a sold-out venue of Bucks fans one chance to see the NBA favorites and their best player will be in street clothes. It's frustrating as all get out. And it's completely understandable for Leonard and the Clippers, who have to make sure Leonard is ready for a lengthy postseason run. It's a double-edged sword that clearly has two valid concerns that are directly opposite of each other.

— Speaking of load management, how about that LeBron James? Third-straight triple-double (30-10-11) last night as the Lakers moved to 6-1 to start the season. He leads the league in assists at more than 11 per game. As for the load management, first, James will start rotating out of games sooner rather than later. But also there's this: For the soon-to-be-35-year-old James who is in his 17th season (seriously, 17 NBA seasons), the offseason without international basketball may be part of the reason why he looks 10 years younger right now.  

— We got QB news friends. Lots of it. QB news chapter I: Cam Newton is done for the year with that foot injury. And for all intents and purposes, he's likely done in Carolina. Newton is in the last year of his contract and will be owed $21-plus million next year if the Panthers keep him. His replacement, Kyle Allen, is 5-1 with the Panthers and has Carolina in the playoff chase.

— QB news, chapter II: Jacksonville announced it will give the starting gig back to Nick Foles after this weekend's bye. Makes sense. But Gardner Minshew, who went 4-4 in his fill-in starts, proved he can handle the duties and made himself millions in the last two months. Because, a) there will be teams interested in trading for Minshew, and his affordable rookie contract in the offseason, and b) even if Jacksonville keeps Minshew as a very affordable back-up QB (a valuable commodity these days), when he hits free agency, someone is going to give the Mustachioed Minshew a shot.


Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way.

Which team does Cam Newton play for next year?

Which team outside the top-five of the playoff committee's ranking has the best chance to make the playoff in six weeks?

Which college basketball storyline are you the most interested in?

As for today, 150 years ago the first college football game happened.

Thank you God for the gift that has kept giving every season since.

Abe Lincoln was elected on this day in 1860. Meet the Press debuted on this day in 1947. Yes, 1947.

Walter "Big Train" Johnson was born on this day in 1887.

Rushmore of nicknames of pitchers in the modern era. Go, and remember the mailbag.