TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had an operation on his knee following the team's regular-season finale at Auburn but should be ready to practice again within the next two weeks, according to coach Nick Saban.
"Ha Ha will be fine," Saban said during a teleconference Sunday previewing the third-ranked Crimson Tide's matchup with No. 11 Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 2. "I think that he had a scope, which probably in two weeks he'll be ready to practice and go again.
"We're not going to rush him back, but I certainly think he's going to be OK [to play]."
Alabama hasn't announced when it will start preparations for the Sooners, but it should be at least another week before the team practices again. Clinton-Dix, meanwhile, has more than three weeks until the bowl game.
Clinton-Dix, a junior, is ranked among the top 20 of Scouts Inc.'s Top 32 draft prospects for 2014. He finished the regular season fourth on the team with 46 tackles to go along with two interceptions and six passes defended.
"Any time you play Alabama, they're very well prepared, they're very well coached and they have excellent players. All 85 of those guys can play," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said during the bowl teleconference. "We know the challenges that will exist once we line up on Jan. 2. They're going to be prepared to play, I know that. I've never seen a Nick Saban team not be prepared to play and play at a very high level."
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
4 Michigan State Spartans vs 5 Stanford Cardinal
January 1, 2014, at 5 ET on ESPN
Michigan State: First Rose Bowl appearance since the 1987 season and its first appearance in a BCS bowl. The Spartans have reached a bowl game in all seven seasons under head coach Mark Dantonio after making no bowl appearances from 2004-06.
Stanford: Second consecutive appearance in the Rose Bowl (def. Wisconsin 20-14 last season). The Cardinal are making back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances for the first time since 1970-71. Stanford has reached a BCS bowl in four straight seasons after making just one from 1998-2009.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
15 UCF Knights vs 6 Baylor Bears
January 1, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
UCF: First BCS bowl berth in school history. Won 11 games this season, tied for the most in school history (also won 11 in 2010).
Baylor: Like their opponents in the Fiesta Bowl, the Bears receive their first BCS bowl berth in school history. Baylor looks to extend a school-record 11 wins this season to 12 in this game.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
11 Oklahoma Sooners vs 3 Alabama Crimson Tide
January 2, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Oklahoma: Ninth BCS bowl appearance, second-most all-time. The Sooners are 3-5 in BCS bowl games, snapping a five-game losing streak with a win in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl vs Connecticut.
Alabama: Third straight BCS bowl appearance and fifth in the last seven seasons under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide will make their first Sugar Bowl appearance since the 2008 season (lost to Utah in that game).
Discover Orange Bowl
12 Clemson Tigers vs 7 Ohio State Buckeyes
January 3, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Clemson: First BCS bowl appearance since 2011, when the Tigers played in the Orange Bowl. Those two games mark the only BCS bowls in school history. Speaking of history for the Tigers, they will make a school-record ninth straight appearance in a bowl game.
Ohio State: Tenth BCS bowl appearance, most all-time. The Buckeyes will make their first Orange Bowl appearance since the 1976 season against Colorado. Their last BCS appearance came in a 2011 Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas.
Vizio BCS National Championship Game
1 Florida State Seminoles vs 2 Auburn Tigers
January 6, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Florida State: After beating Northern Illinois in last year’s Orange Bowl, the Seminoles return to a BCS bowl game. It marks their first back-to-back BCS bowl appearances since 2002-03. This will be their first BCS Championship Game appearance since 2000 and fourth overall.
Auburn: Second BCS Championship Game appearance, first since winning the national title over Oregon in the 2010 season. This marks the third BCS bowl appearance for the Tigers, who are unbeaten in such games thus far.
Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, New Orleans (ESPN)
OKLAHOMA SOONERS BREAKDOWN
Outside of his 2000 national championship, this season might constitute Bob Stoops’ best coaching finish.
The way the Sooners won Bedlam underscores just how improbable a finish it was. Oklahoma didn’t even score an offensive touchdown until the final 19 seconds of the game, yet somehow toppled the heavily favored, then sixth-ranked Cowboys, 33-24.
Unlike the Jason White, Sam Bradford and Landry Jones eras, the Sooners are not equipped to win in shootouts. But led by a veteran offensive line, a reliable running back in Brennan Clay and its mobile quarterbacks, Oklahoma does have a strong running game, ranking 18th in the country.
Even without a surefire all-conference player, the Sooners also have their best defense since 2009. They are undersized up front, but the pass defense is prolific. Aaron Colvin is a proven lockdown corner, and Eric Striker is one of the best blitzing linebackers in college football.
The true strength of this team, however, is special teams. Jalen Saunders, who had a touchdown return in Bedlam, is one of the most electric returners in the country. Roy Finch leads the Big 12 in kickoff returns. And Michael Hunnicutt is a reliable field-goal kicker.
It will be interesting, as it has been all season, to see what the Sooners do at quarterback in the bowl. Freshman Trevor Knight won the job late in the season and was terrific at Kansas State. But he suffered a dislocated shoulder just before halftime at Oklahoma State. Knight should be fine for the bowl. But Blake Bell, who struggled in the losses to Texas and Baylor, led Oklahoma on the game-winning touchdown drive in the final seconds of the fourth quarter that beat Oklahoma State. -- Jake Trotter
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE BREAKDOWN
The sting of losing the Iron Bowl remains. The Crimson Tide didn't expect to fall to the Tigers in the final week of the regular season, miss out on the SEC championship game and, as a result, a trip to Pasadena, Calif., for a shot at a third-straight BCS championship. All of which begs the question: How will Alabama respond now that it has been relegated to the Allstate Sugar Bowl? And does Oklahoma stand a chance?
But Alabama isn't the same team it was then.
On offense, Alabama is actually much better as Doug Nussmeier has guided UA to 38.8 points per game -- the most in the Nick Saban era. AJ McCarron might not win the Heisman Trophy, but he has a shot at making it to New York having thrown for 2,676 yards, 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The offensive line that was rebuilt after being the best in college football a year ago has actually allowed 12 fewer sacks this season than the last. And the running back tandem of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake hasn't disappointed either, combining for 1,857 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The defense, though, has endured its ups and downs. Against Texas A&M, it gave up the most yards in school history, and against Auburn, it allowed the most rushing yards since 2011 (296) and the most rushing yards by a quarterback (99) in the Saban era. Discipline was an issue in those games and the back end of the defense was a troublesome spot throughout as strong safety Vinnie Sunseri was lost to injury midway through the season and the cornerback spot opposite Deion Belue was a revolving door with John Fulton, Cyrus Jones, Bradley Sylve, Eddie Jackson and Maurice Smith all taking unsuccessful turns.
The Tide’s defense will be tested by Oklahoma. With a few QBs that can run, if Alabama doesn't come out ready to play, it could turn into a shootout as the Sooners possesses the kind of spread offense that has given the Tide trouble (http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id/75890/alabama-at-loss-defending-spread-offenses). LSU had the best tandem of receivers Alabama faced this season, but Oklahoma might have the best receiver corps with three wideouts with 20 or more catches. Jalen Saunders has 615 yards and five touchdowns of his own and Sterling Shepherd, who has 428 yards and six touchdowns, is the kind of shifty receiver that can hurt you. -- Alex Scarborough
Alabama heads to the Allstate Sugar Bowl facing the same kind of challenge it encountered the last time the Crimson Tide played in this game.
They will need to stay motivated after their national title hopes have vanished.
Alabama was atop the polls all season and seemed headed toward a shot at a third straight national title before falling 34-28 to No. 2 Auburn. The third-ranked Crimson Tide (11-1) instead will face No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 at New Orleans.
These two storied programs will be facing each other for only the fifth time ever. Oklahoma leads the series 2-1-1 and beat Alabama 20-13 when they last met in 2003 at Tuscaloosa.
Two of their prior meetings came in bowl games. Oklahoma and Alabama tied 24-24 in the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl. Alabama beat Oklahoma 17-0 in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1963.
"Even though there is some disappointment in terms of how we finished our season this year, we're not disappointed at all in the opportunity that we have to play in the Sugar Bowl and to play against a great team," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I'm hopeful that our team will look at this as a challenge and an opportunity for them to prove the kind of football team we can be."
Alabama faced a similar situation five years ago.
When it earned that Sugar Bowl invitation in 2008, Alabama had just lost the SEC title to Florida with a BCS championship game appearance at stake. Alabama fell behind 21-0 to Utah and went on to lose 31-17. The Tide had a more pleasant Superdome postseason memory when they capped their 2011 national title with a 21-0 victory over LSU in the BCS championship game.
Red Smith, the poet laureate of sweat, once wrote that 90 feet between bases is the nearest to perfection that man has yet achieved. The basepath has nothing on the length of college football's regular season, which, with the patience of a kindergarten teacher and the tenacity of Scotland Yard, identified Florida State and Auburn as the two best teams to play for the BCS National Championship.
Tenacity is the lifeblood of a sport that demands physical and mental exertion for 60 minutes. Patience, not so much. Patience in college football is attributed to tailbacks who wait for a hole to appear. But in a sport in which a quarterback may have three seconds to complete a pass without getting his slobber knocked, patience often goes untapped.
Yet patience has never been more important than it has been in 2013, and not just because it was nearly midnight on the final Saturday of the regular season before Michigan State proved that Ohio State didn't have the credentials to play for the crystal football. In a season made predictable only by its unpredictability, patience became the coin of the realm.
Patience rewarded no fans more than at Auburn. It didn't take any patience to appreciate the rapid rise of the Tigers from 3-9 in 2012 to 12-1 this year. But the way that the Tigers waited until the very end to upend Georgia on a Hail Mary tipped pass and defeat archrival No. 1 Alabama on a 109-yard field goal return for a touchdown, focused upon the power of faith no matter what reality promised.
Patience proved critical at Florida State, not because head coach Jimbo Fisher decided to start a redshirt freshman at quarterback. Jameis Winston played with poise and the acumen of an upperclassman as the Seminoles cruised to a 13-0 record (12 wins by at least 27 points). But Florida State fans had to hold their collective garnet-and-gold breath for several weeks before local authorities decided not to charge Winston in a sexual assault case.
Patience paid off at Missouri, which had endured a 5-7, injury-filled debut in the SEC in 2012. Coach Gary Pinkel revamped his training and practice methods, and took advantage of the depth that resulted from playing so many players in 2012. The Tigers won the SEC East and finished 11-2 this season.
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After weeks of conjecture and debate about strength of schedule, the matchup for the VIZIO BCS National Championship turned out to be an obvious one.
The regular season had set up the possibility for a controversial BCS title game with one-loss Auburn on the outside looking in at unbeaten but less-tested Florida State and Ohio State, but Michigan State took the Buckeyes out of the conversation by winning the Big Ten championship game on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Auburn moved up to the second spot in the standings by outscoring Missouri 59-42 in the SEC championship game.
Now the title game is set: Florida State, the nation's only undefeated team, will face 12-1 Auburn, champion of the conference that has won the past seven national championships.
"We all complain about the BCS, but isn't it funny how often they get it right," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
The Buckeyes fell to No. 7 in the BCS standings but will still have the opportunity to play in a record 10th BCS bowl. Ohio State will face No. 12 Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.
The Seminoles and Tigers likely wrapped up spots in the BCS championship game by winning their conference title games Saturday night. The BCS bowl matchups will be revealed Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Florida State received 56 first-place votes from the media panel. Auburn received the remaining four first-place votes.
No. 5 Stanford is the Pac-12 champion for the second straight season.
No. 6 Baylor won the Big 12 and Ohio State slipped to No. 7 after its first loss since the 2011 season.
The AP poll is not used in the formula that determines the BCS standings. The BCS is calculated by combining the averages of three factors: the USA Today coaches' poll, the Harris poll, and an average of six computer ratings. Each factor counts for one-third in the BCS calculations.
The coaches' poll had the same top four as the AP poll, while Baylor was No. 5, Ohio State sixth and Stanford seventh.
Florida State was an unanimous No. 1 selection in the coaches' poll.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Unbelievable isn't it? The Tigers were 3-9 a year ago. Now they're 12-1 and SEC champions, and things broke their way to open the door for them to head back to the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game for the second time in four seasons. What an incredible story. As a result of its 59-42 win over Missouri in the SEC championship game on Saturday at the Georgia Dome and Ohio State's loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, Auburn is BCS title-game bound.
What does that mean for the rest of the league and those teams' bowl destinations? Alabama is almost certainly headed to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The next pick belongs to the Capital One Bowl, and South Carolina should be headed to Orlando for that one. As for the AT&T Cotton Bowl, it's looking like Mizzou is the favorite to land that spot.
That leaves an interesting sequence for the next few bowls in the pecking order. The Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl and the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl are each potential destinations for LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia. The selections could go a couple different ways, but we take a stab at how we think it'll shake out below.
As for the next tier, it appears the AutoZone Liberty Bowl has its sights set on Mississippi State, which would kick Vanderbilt to the BBVA Compass Bowl. Here are our full projections for bowl selection Sunday, and soon enough, we'll find out the fate for each of these squads.
VIZIO BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 6: Auburn
Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2: Alabama
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: South Carolina
AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 3: Missouri
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: LSU
Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31: Texas A&M
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Georgia
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30: Ole Miss
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31: Mississippi State
BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 4: Vanderbilt
The 6-foo-5, 240 pound defender said after the game he will likely take all five of his official visits before signing day on Feb. 5.
The No. 70 prospect in the country, who was visited by Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal this past week, said the Crimson Tide will get one of his visits next month.
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The BCS bowl matchups won't be announced until Sunday night, but we can give our best projection now of what those matchups will be.
Here is how we think things will shake out for each of the five BCS games, including a look at what variables are still in play for each.
VIZIO BCS National Championship
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The SEC -- the conference that so frequently in the bowl selection system's 16-year history has had teams benefit from a higher-ranked counterpart's stumble just before the finish line -- is poised to pull a magic trick once more before the sport moves to a playoff system next fall.
That's the only way that the SEC's unprecedented run of seven BCS titles will have a chance to continue -- probably.
The debate has raged for a week, since Auburn's miracle win against Alabama knocked the defending-champion Crimson Tide off the top of the heap, over whether a one-loss SEC champion belongs in the title game over an undefeated team from a power conference.
Of course, SEC partisans would argue the “power” in power conference is debatable when it comes to either Ohio State or Florida State's league affiliation. And they have a point, as the facts support an SEC-slanted position in an argument that is less scientific than it is emotional.
Even in what is considered a down year for the SEC, Auburn and Missouri will both have played a significantly more difficult schedule than the potential Big Ten champion Buckeyes or ACC-winning Seminoles. According to the ESPN's strength of schedule ratings, Auburn played the toughest schedule of the foursome and the 38th-toughest slate in the FBS. Missouri (45th) was next, with Ohio State (64th) and Florida State (68th) facing significantly smoother paths to reach this point.
The Buckeyes and Seminoles haven't lost, though, which makes it appear extremely unlikely that the SEC champion creeps past either of them as long as Ohio State beats Michigan State and FSU topples Duke on Saturday night.
Should one or both of them lose, that's when things could get especially tricky. The SEC will have a chance to extend its title streak -- this much we know -- but which team(s) will get the title shot(s)?
With a win on Saturday, Auburn seems like a safe bet. But what if Mizzou wins in Atlanta? Will it be Gary Pinkel's Tigers playing for it all in Pasadena?
Or will it be No 4 Alabama, which benefited from higher-ranked opponents' late stumbles in both 2011 (Oklahoma State) and 2012 (Kansas State AND Oregon) to play for the BCS title after late-season losses of its own? Just like this season, Alabama didn't even win the SEC in 2011 before receiving a rematch shot against LSU in the title game, and it's not inconceivable that such an opportunity could arise again.
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide has won three of the last four BCS titles, however, and the program has established itself as the best in the game, even if it lost a week ago. Surely it deserves the benefit of the doubt, right? We shall see.
This BCS scenario could turn into another mess, and more often than not, such situations have worked out in an SEC program's favor during the BCS era.
Let's not go counting unhatched chickens just yet, however. None of these hypotheticals will matter -- once again, probably, -- unless one of these unbeaten teams falls on its face.
Forgive those of us in the Southeast for almost expecting it, Buckeyes and Seminoles. If there is anything we will remember about the BCS era, it's that this scenario has existed over and over since the bowl selection series came into existence. And time and again, unbeaten teams have choked away a chance to slam the door on the SEC's title streak.
The door seems closed right now, but it isn't bolted shut. Saturday will determine if the rest of the nation can finally break from its precedent and keep an SEC team from slipping in at the last second.
Actually, it might not be either. There's a report out there that Mississippi State could be the pick for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, which would be interesting, because the Bulldogs are 6-6 while Vanderbilt is 8-4. The Liberty Bowl and the BBVA Compass Bowl share the eighth and ninth selections in the SEC pecking order but don't have a specific order and consult the SEC office on those picks.
To me, location makes Vanderbilt a sensible pick, but it's not just about who the better team is. Bowl games often choose on who's going to sell tickets, and if the Liberty chooses Mississippi State, it's clearly banking on the fact that Bulldogs fans will make the trip in droves.
Brandon Tyler (@BrandonTyler): It is all about the Bowls! Who is going where? Especially Texas A&M. Thanks.
The SEC's automatic bid, the AllState Sugar Bowl, still has to be decided, of course, based on what happens this weekend. As for our full bowl projections for SEC teams through Week 14, you can find them here. And a couple of our experts, Brad Edwards and Mark Schlabach, take a stab at them right here.
But in the spirit of playing prognosticator, I'll take a guess and say one of the undefeated teams lose, and the Auburn/Missouri winner goes to the BCS title game. That likely would put Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and the Auburn/Missouri loser into the Capital One Bowl. (For the record, I'm predicting a Missouri win over Auburn.)
LSU is probably headed to the AT&T Cotton Bowl, South Carolina to the Outback Bowl and your beloved Aggies likely are bound for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. I mentioned the Liberty Bowl situation above, which probably kicks Vanderbilt to the BBVA Compass Bowl. The TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl probably claims Georgia, and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl probably nabs Ole Miss.
I think the chances of him going to the NFL are high. I tend not to speak in absolutes when it comes to Manziel, because he's unpredictable, but I honestly would be shocked if he returned for another season at Texas A&M, based on all the vibes I get. If the NFL evaluation he receives says he has a good shot to be a first-round pick, he's gone. I guess if he doesn't get rated as highly and scouts are down on him after his final two games, where he played hurt, then who knows? But honestly, I think the bowl game will be his last in the maroon-and-white.
As for him landing in Houston with the Texans, I think he'd have to be around in the second round for him to land there. The Texans are on track for the No. 1 pick in the draft, and I find it unlikely that they would take him first overall (though, they clearly need a quarterback, and I would imagine they'll consider taking one). Let's say they pick someone at another position, like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or perhaps even offensive tackle Jake Matthews with their first pick. Then I think you could see them debating choosing Manziel, if -- again if -- he's around when they pick in round two.
All it takes is one team to fall in love with you for you to wind up a first-round pick. It also depends on what head coach the Texans hire, since whoever is in that position is going to have his own specific vision and desires for who his quarterback should be.
Nathan Goldstein (@nathan0223): What's the latest with Jamal Adams?
Adams, the No. 23 player in the ESPN 300 and the nation's No. 3 safety, is definitely an SEC recruit of note, with Florida and LSU among the teams making a play for him. My main man Damon Sayles caught up with Adams recently after he hosted LSU for an in-home visit, so check that out here. Florida has been the longtime favorite for Adams (receivers coach Joker Phillips is his godfather); Ole Miss has been considered a contender; Texas A&M once was but isn't anymore. I think Texas is still in the mix, but my guess is he still winds up at Florida.