Nick Saban

Saban no fan of only division games deciding SEC divisional champs

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Somewhat surprisingly, an idea on determining the East and West division champions of the SEC by counting only divisional games, first pushed by Steve Spurrier and later supported by Les Miles, has seemingly gained some level of traction and could at least be up for discussion at the conference meetings later this month in Florida.

Just don’t hold your breath for the best head coach in college football to throw his support behind such a proposal.

Ahead of a Crimson Caravan stop Tuesday, Nick Saban was asked about an idea that, in essence, would relegate cross-division games to a level of importance akin to non-conference games.  While acknowledging the thinking that’s behind it, the Alabama head coach intimated that minimizing the importance of cross-divisional games could end up damaging the conference in the long run.

“I just think that’s one of those things that’s not always going to be controlled,” Saban said. “It’s not manipulated with who you play. We have a rotation, we have to go through it.

“I think the other division games you play on the other side are important to our fans and there’s a lot of tradition involved in some of those games. I think if you minimize the importance of those games, that wouldn’t be in the best interest of our league.”

Division-only games already do play a role in deciding divisional champions, albeit only in the case of a tie.  In a two-way tie, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head, obviously, but the second is the two team’s record in divisional play.  Lather, rinse, repeat when it comes to a three-team tiebreaker.

The combination of new members Missouri and Texas A&M coming into the conference this year plus the West’s domination over the East the past few years has led to this division-only push by two of the SEC’s most recognizable coaches, although it’s likely the latter that’s led to the chatter from the Ol’ Ball Coach.  As Saban may have hinted at when he said “that’s one of the things that’s not always going to be controlled”, however, these things run in cycles.

The record bear out the West’s dominance the past three years, with the East going just 15-39 in non-division games.  The three years prior to that?  The East owned a 39-33 advantage over the West from 2006-08.  From 2002-04, it was 30 wins for West schools, 24 wins for schools from the East.

Again, cycles, although this current one is a definite low point for the East relative to others in recent years.

Would Spurrier’s proposal, though, really make a difference as to who in the past would’ve represented the East and West in the SEC championship game?  Not much research needs to be undertaken to see that it would’ve just this past year, and guess which school that would’ve benefited?

In 2011, Georgia won the East at 7-1 while South Carolina, which beat the Bulldogs the second week of the season, finished behind UGA at 6-2.  Take out the three games against the West, however — UGA was 3-0 (Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn) while USC was 1-2 (losses to Auburn and Arkansas, win over Mississippi State) — the former would’ve been 4-1 and the latter 5-0.  In other words, the Gamecocks, not the Bulldogs, would’ve served as the sacrificial lamb faced LSU in the SEC title game last December.

I love the OBC as much as anyone, but c’mon.  Do what’s best for the conference, not what would’ve been best for your school a year ago.  And, sorry coach, turning non-divisional games into the equivalent of non-conference games is not, as Saban said, what’s best for the SEC.

Having games against Florida Atlantic, Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia State and Louisiana-Monroe carry the same level of importance in the SEC standings as games against Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU?  That’s an indefensible — and laughable — proposition.  Or, as commissioner Mike Slive put it last month…

“We certainly can discuss it, but an SEC football game is an SEC football game,” Slive said. “Sitting here first blush without a lot of thought, it would be very hard to decide some games are more valuable than other games.”

Checking in on the nation’s longest winning & losing streaks

Alabama's head coach Saban instructs his players as they take on the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge
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Unbelievably, at the end of today, we’ll be more than one-third of the way through the 2016 regular season as the calendar flips from September to October. And, not surprisingly, some teams are faring better than others — and some, suffice to say, are not.

In “water’s wet, sky’s blue” news, defending national champions and undefeated top-ranked Alabama holds the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 in a row. ‘Bama’s last loss came Sept. 19 a year ago against Ole Miss. In fact, the Tide hasn’t really come close to seeing that streak end since as just two of their last 16 games have been decided by 10-plus points, with the lone exceptions being a 19-14 win over Tennessee in October of last year and 43-37 over Ole Miss just two weeks ago.

What might surprise you, though, is the second-longest streak behind ‘Bama. The holder of that honor? San Diego State, which has peeled off 13 wins in a row entering Week 5. Tennessee is the only other team in double digits, with 10 wins in a row dating back to last season.  The Vols’ last loss?  To the Tide, of course, a defeat that UT will get to avenge two weeks from today in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium.

A total of nine teams will also take the field Saturday with a winning streak of at least five in a row:

7 — Houston, Washington
6 — Louisville, Utah, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
5 — Boise State, Navy, Ohio State

Clemson could join some combination of the above at that five-game winning-streak plateau Saturday, but to get there they’ll have to beat… Louisville.

On the other side of the won-loss ledger, the “proud” owner of the nation’s longest losing streak entering the 2016 season was Kansas* at 15 straight, followed by UCF (13), Charlotte (10), Eastern Michigan (10), Oregon State (nine) and Boston College (eight).

All six of those teams have seen those losing streaks come to a merciful end, with EMU actually off to a 3-1 start to the year. The team that was just behind BC, Wake Forest, carried a six-game losing streak into 2016 before surprisingly (stunningly?) winning their first four games of the season.

So, with all of that winning from last year’s biggest losers, who’s the current “top” loser? That title now belongs to the Northern Illinois Huskies, the winners of the last six MAC West championships — and three of the last six conference titles — who have started this season with four straight losses to stretch their ignominious streak to a nation’s best/worst seven in a row. Just three other teams have a streak that began during the 2015 season: Florida International, which has lost six in a row and already fired their head coach; Arkansas State, which lost its first four of this season to push its streak to five in a row; and Georgia State, 0-3 on the season to add to a loss in the 2015 Cure Bowl for a four-game losing streak.

Two additional teams are winless on the season after winning their last game of 2015: Miami of Ohio and Rice, which are each 0-4 in 2016.

(*While Kansas’ overall losing streak came to an end, they’ve still lost 17 in a row against FBS opponents, with the last one of those coming in early November of 2015 against Iowa State.)

Miami to wear helmet stickers honoring late Marlins P Jose Fernandez

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: Scenes from the funeral for Jose Fernandez at St. Brendanâs Catholic Church on September 29, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy-Pool/Getty Images)
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The tragic death of Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez has touched those in and around the South Beach community, including the flagship college football program in the area.

Fernandez, along with two friends, was killed in a boating accident off of South Beach last Sunday.  For Saturday’s ACC opener against Georgia Tech, The U will wear helmet stickers with Fernandez’s No. 16 on the back to honor the late All-Star pitcher.

The football program unveiled the sticker as displayed on the helmet of starting quarterback Brad Kaaya.

LOOK: TCU to wear debut new chrome helmets for game vs. Oklahoma

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As someone loathe to post on the myriad uniform combinations that college football teams toss out there on an almost weekly basis, I have to admit that these are… not bad. At all.

Quite fresh looking, actually.

Ahead of their black-out game against Oklahoma Saturday, TCU unveiled a new chrome helmet that the Horned Frogs will wear against the Sooners.  The helmets feature purple facemasks and a rather large purple horned frog on each side of it.

While all of that stuff, the helmets and uniforms and cleats and gloves and the like, are mainly for the benefit of recruits and current players, I and my particular demographic would have to give it a hearty thumbs up.  Which I’m certain means the world to the football program.

Longtime starting WKU safety likely out for remainder of 2016

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Calvin Ridley #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes away from Marcus Ward #8 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Like they have the last couple of weeks, Western Kentucky will have to get used to Marcus Ward not patrolling its defensive secondary on game days.

Ward (pictured, left) injured his knee in Week 2 and has not returned to the playing field.  Unfortunately for the player and the football program, that absence will continue as the safety underwent surgery on the knee, which is expected to sideline him for the remainder of the 2016 season.

This may not be the last of the fourth-year senior in a Hilltopper uniform, though, as Ward has yet to use his redshirt season and would have a medical waiver at his disposal even if he had.  It’s unclear, however, if Ward will return for another season or rather make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.

Ward has started a total of 31 games since his true freshman season in 2013, including 26 the previous two seasons.  He was named preseason second-team All-Conference USA prior to the start of the 2016 season.

Perhaps more importantly, he was named a semifinalist earlier this month as a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman.