Tommy Hicks: Learning a lot about football

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We learned a lot during Championship Week of the college football season, and not just who the College Football Playoff committee believes are the top four teams in the country.

A whole lot.

We discovered that Alabama is still the best team in the country, until another teams proves otherwise, and Georgia might be the second-best team, though it isn’t included among the four teams that will get a chance to play for the national championship. I understand the selections, and don’t totally disagree with the final result — the Dawgs hurt themselves with a 20-point loss at LSU and have to accept the blame themselves for not being selected — but if it was a matter of picking the four best teams to play, I might have to pick Georgia as one of the four.

You want a crazy stat? Try this one: in its past two games against Alabama, Georgia has led or been tied with Alabama for 118 of the 120 minutes of regulation play. The yet the Bulldogs are 0-2 in those games.
So, maybe in evaluating things it could be said Georgia is the second-best football program in the country right now. That would not be a stretch, and there’s no need to get a vote from a committee.

We know that while the SEC overall wasn’t expected to be the top conference this year in football, that calculation fell off the mark. This was expected to be the year of the Big 12 or the Big Ten. They aren’t that big.
The Associated Press in its latest Top 25 poll has Alabama as the No. 1 team in the country and the Crimson Tide received all 61 first-place votes. Georgia came in at No. 6, with Florida at No. 10, LSU at No. 11, Kentucky (yes, Kentucky) at No. 16, Mississippi State at No. 18, Texas A&M at No. 21 and Missouri at No. 24.
That’s more than half the 14-team league with positions in the Top 25. And it’s with Auburn, a preseason Top 10 team, not among the SEC’s eight teams, which is twice as many as the next best conference, the Big 12 with four.

We know that Ohio State has to figure out something else in order to get in the College Football Playoffs. … We know that the Pac 12 championship game, slated on a Friday, was a game TV executives just wanted to get out of the way so they could move along to the other, more fan-friendly games.

We know that while they won’t get a chance to prove themselves in the playoffs, there aren’t a lot of teams that don’t want to play the Golden Knights right now. Or next season. Or the season after that. Good luck to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl; the Tigers’ offense better rest up if it hopes to keep up with UCF’s scoring punch, even against a defense like LSU’s. Especially if there are NFL-bound players for the Bengal Tigers, and there are a few on defense, who may decide to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Combine and avoid the risk of injury in a bowl game or preparations for the game.

We know that Jalen Hurts is a player who has earned perhaps more respect than any other player in the country for the way he handled his situation at Alabama, and for being the player Alabama needed when Tua Tagovailoa was injured and had to be replaced in the SEC title game. Even Auburn fans who dislike all things Alabama had to be cheering for Hurts when he made his way onto the field and produced plays that led to tying the game and then running for the go-ahead touchdown. It was a terrific moment for college football in general, Hurts in particular and Alabama for sure. It also provided a teaching/preaching moment for every coach — youth, high school or college — to use an an example of what the role of a back-up player should be, and how that situation should be handled.

We also learned there’s still a lot of football left, a lot of twists and turns that will likely unfold. … We learned that Les Miles will have another chapter in his college football head coaching life, that Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey would rather be with Miles in Kansas then with Gus Malzahn in Auburn. … We learned that Malzahn would rather rework his contract and stay at Auburn for another chance at righting the Tigers’ ship than to hold the feet of the school and its big boosters to the fire on the chance they may have actually paid him $32 million not to coach the team (and let’s face it, Auburn has a strong tradition of paying coaches not to coach).

We learned that UAB’s Bill Clark has done a tremendous job for the Blazers, including winning the Conference USA crown this season, just two years after the program was revived, and that Troy’s Neal Brown is going to be high on the shirt list of coaching candidates of an AD at one or more Power 5 conference schools looking for a new head coach.

And we learned that regardless of how we feel about the teams selected to be in the playoffs or how our favorite team fared this season, that once again college football didn’t let us down.