Tide’s defensive game plan a reality check for offensive-minded bowl season

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How ironic that a bowl season noted for some record-breaking offensive performances ends with perhaps one of the best defensive efforts in recent memory.

The Alamo Bowl, a 67-56  defense-non-existent race between Baylor and Washington, was more theatre — a comedy at that — than a football game. Color analyst and tackling aficionado Chris Spielman is still purging, I’m sure.

If Russell Wilson hadn’t been so captivated by Oregon’s shiny helmets made from 100 percent stainless steel, perhaps he would have been able to spike the ball in time to give Wisconsin a shot to tie the Rose Bowl at 45 points in regulation. Instead, time expired and a measly 83 points had to suffice.

The Orange Bowl jokes are still going strong. It’s been five days since West Virginia hung up 70 on Clemson, and the Mountaineers just scored another touchdown.

It’s cool, man, we get it. Offense equals eyeballs. People need to be entertained.

It’s just that Nick Saban is the one holding up the crystal ball from the Coaches’ Trophy after beating top-ranked LSU 21-0 to win his second BCS championship with Alabama in three seasons — his third BCS championship overall. He’s holding it up because No. 2 Alabama’s top-ranked defense held LSU to 92 total yards, forced two turnovers and didn’t allow the Tigers past midfield until 7:29 left in the fourth quarter.

But before people start harping on LSU’s lifeless offense as the primary reason Bama’s defense looked so dominant — although it was lifeless, let’s not kid ourselves — let’s remember that this was the same LSU offense that scored 34 points against Rose Bowl champs Oregon, 40 against Orange Bowl champs WVU, 34 against Cotton Bowl champs Arkansas and 41 against Gator Bowl champs Florida, which despite its struggles, played relatively well defensively this year.

LSU’s 2011 identity revolved around big plays on defense and special teams; get a spark there and the Tigers could get on a roll before the opposing teams knew what hit them. Even LSU’s 9-6 win over Alabama on Nov. 5 featured momentum swings from the other two-thirds of the football game not involving offense.

Alabama took away that identity tonight and LSU never got the spark they needed during a game when they needed it most.   Coincidentally, the Tide did it by refusing to waiver on their game plan.

We didn’t do a lot different [from the last game],” Saban said. “We did some things on offense formationally. Our offensive team did a great job. Defensively, we just played well, played the box.”

It showed. LSU had no running game, no vertical passing game, no clue. Jordan Jefferson looked lost and Jarrett Lee was lost, as in he was no where to be found other than on the sidelines.

It was one of the more questionable decisions of the night.

But there’s no questioning this Alabama defense’s place as one of the best in recent history.

“We wanted to come out and show the world we beat ourselves the first game,” said linebacker Courtney Upshaw. “We wanted to come out and dominate from start to finish, and that’s what we did.”

Indeed. There’s no way you can blame Saban for relying on kicker Jeremy Shelley to win the game with five field goals. Even before Trent Richardson sealed the victory with a 34-yard touchdown run, 15-0 seemed insurmountable with the way the Tide’s D was flying to the ball.

Kick the field goals. Build the lead. Nick Saban don’t care. Right, Honey Badger?

After all, Saban’s the one holding up the crystal ball. And I can guarantee you he doesn’t give a damn if you were entertained.

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Ex-Alabama DL O.J. Smith tweets transfer to Minnesota

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After leaving one Power Five program, O.J. Smith has landed on his feet at another.

On his personal Twitter and Instagram accounts late Thursday morning, Smith announced that he is “Officially Family Of The University Of Minnisota !!!!” While the lineman says his move is official, the Gophers have yet to announce his addition to the roster.

If/when it comes to fruition, Smith will have to sit out the 2017 season, and will then have one year of eligibility to use in 2018.

Smith had announced in early June that he would be transferring from Alabama.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2014 recruiting class, Smith was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  The defensive tackle redshirted his true freshman because of an injury suffered in summer camp.

The past two seasons, he’s played in a combined two games and was credited with one tackle in each of those contests.

Protests growing over Michael Vick’s impending induction into Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame

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One new addition to Virginia Tech’s Sports Hall of Fame is causing a bit of controversy and consternation and angst.

On July 11, it was announced that Michael Vick would be one of five inductees into the university’s Hall of Fame.  There is little doubt that, on the field, Vick was one of the greatest players in the history of Hokies football and, for that, he deserves a spot.

Off the field, some would argue, precludes him from such an honor.  After leaving Blacksburg, Vick served 19 months in a federal prison after being convicted on dogfighting charges.

As noted by the Roanoke Times,  there are two different online petitions on change.org (HERE and HERE) at the moment that are pushing for the university to reverse its inclusion of Vick as part of this year’s class.  As of this posting, nearly 100,000 individuals combined have signed the petitions, one of which notes that one of the school’s own criteria for inclusion is “[m]ust be of good character and reputation/not have been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way.”

“The College unequivocally opposes honoring an individual whose past actions contradict our values and the cornerstone of our mission,” a Facebook statement from Dr. Cyril Clarke, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, began. “Over the course of several days, I have communicated with President [Timothy] Sands and other campus administrators to express our disappointment and opposition to this decision. I continue to be in conversations with the president regarding this issue.”

In response to the burgeoning brouhaha, the university released a statement defending Vick’s induction that includes shining a light on the former Hokies quarterback’s post-conviction actions.

Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports Hall of Fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete — who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university. We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.

“In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports Hall of Fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction and time he served for his crime were also considered, and it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives. This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted. The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.

Vick’s third-place finish in the voting for the 1999 Heisman Trophy is the highest ever for a Hokie.

The 2017 class, including Vick (for now), are scheduled to be inducted at a Sept. 22 ceremony. A day later, the same group will be honored at halftime of the football game vs. Old Dominion.

6-5, 287-pound 8th grader Jaheim Otis holds offers from Alabama, other SEC schools

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You may want to pay attention to Jaheim Oatis as he’s a rather big deal, literally and figuratively, on the recruiting trail.

Otis hails from Columbia, Mississippi, and will be in the eighth grade this school year.  What makes Oatis unique from other football recruits is that, not long after finishing up the seventh grade, he says he stands 6-4 and weighs in at 284 pounds; Scout.com lists him at 6-5, 287 pounds.

Even more unique?  Late last week, he revealed via his personal Twitter account that he has already received offers from Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Oatis isn’t all size, either, as evidenced by his running a 40-yard dash at Ole Miss earlier this year.

Oatis also plays baseball — he claims to have been clocked pitching at 84 mph — as well as basketball — he was the MVP at an AAU tournament this summer.  When it comes football, he plays offensive line along with tight end.

Bowling Green lands Cincinnati grad transfer John Kurtz

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Just ahead of the start of summer camp, Bowling Green has further solidified its depth and experience along its offensive line.

Appearing at the MAC football preview Wednesday, Mike Jinks confirmed that John Kurtz has been added to his Bowling Green football roster.  Kurtz comes to the Falcons as a graduate transfer, which would technically give him immediate eligibility.

“He played spring football for Cincinnati and was in the rotation for playing time on the offensive line,” Jinks said according to the Toledo Blade. “He’s a kid who has a chance to have an impact right away.

“The opportunity is there for him to play right away for us. This is a big ‘get’ for us.”

Jinks also hinted that Kurtz, who has two years of eligibility remaining, could be a redshirt candidate for the 2017 season as well.

Despite being just a two-star 2014 recruit, he was rated as the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Kentucky.  During his time with the Bearcats, Kurtz played sparingly.