Welcome to the twelfth edition of the sophomore season of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia, where I witnessed maybe the best football game of the season and, yet, the second best meeting of the calendar year between Georgia and Alabama. Many congratulations to Jalen Hurts on leading that comeback. Couldn’t have happened to a better guy. With Championship Weekend over, we now know “who’s in.” Let’s dissect the decision by this year’s committee.

Today in English class, a fellow student came up and asked me what I thought about the playoff.

“Well,” I said as I got together my books, “I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the committee this year.” He looked at me and asked what I meant.

“This may be the hardest decision they’ve had to make.”

I believe that, because the committee was at a crossroads this year: do we pick the best or the most deserving team available? Georgia clearly looks like a top four team in the country, but Oklahoma beat everybody on its schedule. I’d take Georgia in a close game on a neutral field, but it’s a close margin between these teams, so the committee went to the conference championship “tie-breaker.” Thus, they made the correct decision.

So here’s what we’ve got: #1 Alabama against #4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and #2 Clemson taking on #3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. I think this is a pretty compelling four, and I know we’ll get two competitive games.

While I could wax poetic about how the playoff should expand so Georgia and, I guess, Ohio State could’ve been included, I’ll instead throw it to a statement Kirby Smart said this week: “Everybody can’t make it in.” That goes right along with a comment I made on my show a few weeks ago–why are we rushing to expansion? The BCS was created in 1998 and lasted until 2013 before any changes were made. It took some time to work out the kinks but, for the most part, the best two teams did indeed play for national championship. Now, we’re in the fifth season of the playoff, and folks have been clamoring for an increase of positions in the bracket. 

Look, I’m all for fairness, but what ever happened to the difficulty of winning a championship? Having a shot at glory should be hard. It should take everything you’ve got, and then some, to be a national champion.

I don’t think this year is further proof that we should expand; I think it’s proof that we’re fine. Georgia wanted to make it? Don’t lose twice. Ohio State wanted to make it? Don’t lose to 6-6 Purdue by 29. UCF wants in? Find a way to schedule a powerhouse in the non-conference, not Pittsburgh and North Carolina. It should be difficult to win a championship. As of right now, four is just fine with me.

Gray’s Top 10

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Georgia
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Ohio State
  7. UCF
  8. Michigan
  9. LSU
  10. Washington

Here’s how I’d rank the top ten. While I think the committee made the right choice putting Oklahoma in over Georgia, I still have the Dawgs ranked higher simply because I think they’re better. Ohio State is at six solely because of the body of work. Sure, they dominated Michigan and pulled away from Northwestern. Before the last two weeks, though, the Buckeyes were inconsistent at best. UCF slides in at seven, what I think is their ceiling this season. Congrats on going undefeated, Knights, but this is the highest I can put you. Michigan, LSU, and Washington fill out my penultimate top ten of the season.

Coach of the Week

Let me change COTW for the first time in our history to POTW just so I can spend an entire section of this column gushing about Jalen Hurts. When Tua Tagovailoa went down with an ankle injury in the SEC Championship, Hurts stepped onto the same field where he lost his job just eleven months ago. Since that time, Hurts saw Tua start in the regular season and saw his duties relegated to the fourth quarter, when the score was out of reach. Many in the media said he should transfer. Others thought he should hang it up after four games so that he could take a redshirt year. Jalen shut all of the out and continued to play for the team and for his brothers. Fast forward to this past Saturday, when Hurts finally had his chance at redemption.

If you watched Hurts’ work on Saturday, the improvement is easy to see. Jalen didn’t abandon the pass after option one was covered; he went through his throwing progressions and made some incredibly clutch plays through the air. This story is so good that Lifetime would turn it down for being too improbable, and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Congratulations to Jalen Hurts on an unbelievable night. What a story.

Idiot of the Week

On the flip side, let’s have a work about Kirby Smart. Here’s what happened:

Kirby Smart said in postgame that they’d seen the chance to go for the fake on film and that, in this situation, “it was there.” Smart said that they just didn’t snap the ball fast enough. Well in that case, Kirby, call a timeout. Don’t just stand there thinking you’re a genius; recognize that Alabama has covered the guy you thought would be open, call timeout, and punt it away. Also, did Smart think Alabama wouldn’t notice Fields out there? On every other Georgia punt, the Bulldogs had three linemen in the backfield for protection. So, when it’s just quarterback Justin Fields, Alabama is supposed to not be suspicious? Please. This entire play call was a disaster, and it probably cost Georgia a victory and a spot in the playoff.

Random Rankings

We here at Random Rankings HQ are ready to reveal our first seven movies on the RR Oscar Watch List. Here’s how we determine which movies make the cut: any film that’s a contender for best picture, best director, best actor/actress, best supporting actor/actress, and best original/adapted screenplay makes The List. 

Here are the films on The List that we haven’t seen yet but will by the time our official ranking is posted in February:

As for the movies we have seen, well, here’s our initial ranking of those films. We’ll go more in-depth in February when we give the full, extensive review, but here’s what we’ve got for now. *Disclaimer*: per usual, once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. Here’s our ranking of the already seen Oscar-potential movies on The List. Remember, this is just the preliminary review. We’ll get much more extensive in February.

1. Widows

The passion-project of director Steve McQueen, Widows is the best-acted movie of the year by an entire cast. My love of Viola Davis has been written many times, but Daniel Kaluuya and Elizabeth Debicki give Davis a run for the top member of the cast. The action is stellar, the plot is fun, and the performances are spectacular.

What makes this movie interesting, though, is that Widows also has something to say. There’s a continuous tracking shot taken from outside the vehicle for of a Chicago politician as he drives away from a poorer part of town to his mansion that should be showed to film students for decades to come. It’s that good. All in all, I loved the movie. We’ll see if it can hold on to the top spot on our list this early in the race.

2. The Wife

This movie is number two for one reason: Glenn Close. Close plays Joan Castleman, the wife of an author who wins the Nobel Prize for literature at the start of the film. What follows is an emotional, intense psychiatric study into the mind of a spouse that’s pushed a touch too far.

Jonathan Pryce is good as Joe, the husband, but this film is really all about Close. Every single facial expression will haunt you as she gives a tour-de-force performance that’s, in my opinion, easily the best of her career.

3. A Star is Born

I need to see this movie again. Admittedly, I was tired while I was watching it–I did go to a 10:30 showing, after all. Also admittedly, it took me awhile longer than I anticipated to get into the plot. Bradley Cooper’s direction is astounding, and his performance as Jackson Maine is somehow more impressive. I have a sneaky feeling Sam Elliott will win Best Supporting Actor his turn as Jackson Maine’s older brother. Oh, and the music is incredible too, as the songs will stick with you for weeks after leaving the theater. Shallow is a lock for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards this year.

So, what’s holding A Star is Born back for me? Interestingly, it’s the performance of Lady Gaga that gives me pause. I felt like she was a touch more wooden that need be in regular scenes. Now, when she sings, Gaga takes you to another world. I wanted more from her during the everyday dialogue. Also, I found the script a bit contrived. There were a few points here and there that caused an eye roll. Still, the ending made me shed a few tears, so extra points.

4. Eighth Grade

Oh gosh, this movie. This freaking movie. Directed by Bo Burnham and starring a devastating Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade tells the story of Kayla and her last week of, well, eighth grade. What follows is a painfully awkward and heart-breaking story that shows Kayla as she tries to become more confident and sure of herself. Fisher is absolutely electric in the role, portraying the simultaneous fear and hope that encapsulates middle school in a nutshell. And this scene? Holy cow.

Look, this movie is a lot. It’ll make you squirm and cry. Still, it’s necessary viewing for everyone who’s ever been through the emotional ups and downs of middle school. I just wish I could move it higher.

5. First Man

In a lot of ways, First Man reminds me of last year’s Dunkirk. I can’t say much about it’s acting, but the technical precision of this film cannot be overstated. Damien Chazelle is at his very best here, and First Man should rake in all of the technical awards. As for the plot, something didn’t connect. It felt distant, and it took too long for me to get emotionally invested with the characters. Why is that? I’m still unsure, but hopefully I can find out upon a second viewing. If I had to highlight a “best performance,” that title would go to Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong, Neil’s wife. She doesn’t have many standout scenes, but she does some great work with what she has. Still, this is a good movie because it’s really, really spectacular on a technical level.

6. Black Panther

I’ll dig into my issues with the movie and what I liked about it more in February, but here’s the bottom line: it wasn’t the best Marvel movie of 2018. That was Infinity War, and it isn’t close (many movie fans and Marvel-obsessed folks I’ve talked to agree). Also, Michael B. Jordan’s performance wasn’t as good as critics are claiming, in my opinion. Maybe Black Panther didn’t connect with me because of the immense hype, but I can’t be sure. Either way, it’s unlikely to break the top ten in the full list (although that Korean car chase scene sure was cool). 

7. BlacKkKlansman

It was the most hyped movie at the Galway Film Fleadh in Ireland that I attended over the summer, and I walked away disappointed. I’ll dig into the flaws of the movie in a few months, but for now I’ll just say that the tone is uneven at best and the message it tries to convey at the end is unearned with that same tone. I wanted it to be better, I really did; unfortunately, this Spike Lee Joint looks destined to stay in the cellar.

So Who’s Ready for Bowl Season?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Bowl season will be upon us soon (after Army-Navy this weekend), and that means 40+ games for our amusement. You can find the entire slate here: http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/page/cfpbowls2018/2018-19-college-football-playoff-bowl-schedule

That’ll do it for this week’s edition of The Hangover. This weekend, I’ll be calling Alabama women’s basketball on the SEC Network+ as the Tide battles Tulane. Then, I’ll be home preparing for my journey to Miami and then the Sun Bowl. It should be a wild bowl season, and we’ll be back after the Orange Bowl with a national championship preview. See you then!

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