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Jumbo Package: If there is to be chaos, Alabama has to provide it in SEC Championship

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. After a win in Auburn that was more “thrilling” than it should have been, Jalen Milroe and Nick Saban were talking about the dynamic of this team.

“This is what’s the biggest thing this whole football team has done is grow from tough times,” said Milroe, who was benched for one game after a loss to No. 7 Texas. “I think that’s what separates us from other people. Never giving up and then the love we have for each other.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban said overcoming deficits and finishing tough games has been his team’s modus operandi all year. He even used the Iron Bowl as a life lesson.

“It should be a lesson for everybody in life: Overcome adversity, man. If you have the ability to do that, you have a great chance to be successful,” Saban said Saturday night.

Let’s hope that continues next week as there will most certainly be adversity against Georgia.

Nick Saban spoke after the game about the bad snap that put Alabama in position to have to win with that 31 yard strike.

“First of all, the defense is not allowed to clap if that’s what you’re using as a cadence,” Saban said. “If what you say actually occurred, and I did see the film, then that’s ... I’m not criticizing the officiating, but I am saying that’s supposed to be a penalty.”

Saban was asked if there’s a thought going to a silent count instead of using a clap for Milroe to signal to McLaughlin when to get him the football.

“We have gone to the silent count before, and that has its issues, too,” Saban said. “Look, you’re not allowed to clap on defense, so if you’re using clap as your cadence, why would you change your cadence so somebody does something they’re not supposed to do on the other side of the ball? Doesn’t make any sense to me. We went silent at Texas A&M, we had nine false starts. It didn’t work too well.”

Auburn and the clap go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Alabama has been waiting on chaos that never came. At this point, they have to be the drama.

The potential launching point for chaos is the mega-showdown between Georgia and Alabama in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon. If the Bulldogs prevail, it gets simpler. Otherwise, major complications arise. If Alabama wins, the Crimson Tide get in. But then, doesn’t Texas have to follow, as long as the Longhorns beat Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship game? Remember, Texas manhandled Alabama on the road back in September, one of the best wins anyone has all season. It’s almost impossible to envision a one-loss SEC team not reaching the playoff, but how can you possibly pick Alabama and not Texas?

That would be quite the conundrum. Let’s hope that conversation is being had next weekend. SI’s computer model has the SEC Championship Game as a toss up.

Most of the early simulations favor the Bulldogs, but by a close margin.

That includes College Football Power Index, a computer prediction tool that uses data points from both teams to simulate games 20,000 times and pick a winner.

Right now, the index is projecting that Georgia will win the game in 52.1 percent of its simulations, while Alabama comes out ahead in the remaining 47.9 percent of sims.

By taking each team’s projected scoring margin per game, the computer predicts that Georgia will defeat Alabama by just 0.5 points. Or by 1 point, if we round it up.

This one seems pretty simple to me. Georgia is going to drive the ball better than Alabama will. The game will hinge on how much the Georgia defense can limit the walking big play that is Jalen Milroe. After not using his legs much early in the season, Jalen ran for 263 yards on 38 carries combined against LSU and Auburn. He also boasts the nation’s third-highest passer efficiency rating, largely due to the deep ball accuracy that won the game on Saturday. In 2021, Alabama torched Georgia with big plays.

Can they do it again? We shall see.

Injuries will obviously play a role.

“He’s had a little foot injury all year long. He tweaked it in the game,” said Saban on the SEC Championship Game teleconference. “So he’ll be day to day this week, but I can’t tell you how much progress it’ll make. Probably the next 48 hours will tell us whether he’ll make the kind of progress he needs to be able to practice some and play in the game.”

McClellan rushed for 66 yards on 15 carries and caught an 8-yard pass in the Iron Bowl before his exit in the fourth quarter. The senior running back is Alabama’s leading rusher this season with 803 yards and six touchdowns on 166 carries (4.84 ypc). He also leads the Tide running back room with 13 catches for 126 yards through 12 regular-season games.

“As far as last night, Brock was probably the closest of being able to go of those guys. Just didn’t feel as good as he had. He was a little sore. We wanted to be able to use him situationally, see what he could do if he felt comfortable with it.

“Just didn’t think he could go. Nothing about who we’re playing or anything else. He’s got to be able to go compete at the highest level and be able to feel good about what he’s doing. We didn’t feel that he had that last night.

“Tate, he may have, could have played, but he wasn’t 100%. We’re hopeful to get him back.

“As far as the other guys go, it’s going to be day to day. We just don’t know anything. We certainly don’t know anything more today because we haven’t done anything.”

I hate to hear that Jase is hurting, but it would be something to see Justice Haynes have his breakout game against his old man’s alma mater.

Texas A&M and Mississippi State hired their new head coaches.

Elko, 46, quickly became a favorite among Texas A&M faithful after a highly successful run with the Aggies as defensive coordinator under former coach Jimbo Fisher. He came to Texas A&M after successful stints at Wake Forest and Notre Dame as part of Fisher’s initial staff in 2018. Under his watch, the Aggies defense ranked among the best units in the country, especially against the run.

During his tenure as defensive coordinator, Texas A&M went 34-14, capped off by a 9-1 Orange Bowl campaign in 2020. The Aggies also began their run recruiting at an elite level, especially when it came to locking down standout prospects on the defensive side of the ball.

Lebby has been the offensive coordinator at OU, Ole Miss and UCF, with high-tempo and prolific offenses his hallmark. Since 2019, he’s been coordinator of an offense that’s scored 50 or more points 14 times, leading all active offensive coordinators.

Lebby agreed to a five-year deal, according to ESPN sources. He replaces Zach Arnett, who lasted less than a full year as MSU’s coach. Arnett was hired in the wake of the passing of Mike Leach.

“I am confident that Jeff is the perfect leader for the next exciting chapter of Mississippi State football,” athletic director Zac Selmon said in a statement. “He will bring an exciting brand of football, elite student-athlete development, and a winning culture to Starkville, all while doing so with high integrity.”

In NFL news, Amari Cooper and Derrick Henry keep putting up numbers.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper reached a big number in their NFL careers on Sunday – 9,000.

Henry surpassed 9,000 rushing yards, and Cooper reached 9,000 receiving yards.

Last, while the situation clearly wasn’t identical, check out the similarity of this pass from the other Jalen from Texas to the one that clinched the Iron Bowl victory.

Clutch as always, Jalen finished things off in overtime to go 10-1 on the season.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.