Nick Saban

Saban no fan of only division games deciding SEC divisional champs


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.”

Florida’s leading tackler a game-time decision vs. Georgia

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 03: Ross Comis #2 of the Massachusetts Minutemen passes Jarrad Davis #40 of the Florida Gators to score a touchdown during the first half of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Whether Florida will have its leading tackler for its annual rivalry game with Georgia won’t be known (still) for another couple of days.

The good news is that, for the first time since severely spraining his ankle in the Week 7 win over Missouri, Jarrad Davis returned to practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis.  If the linebacker takes the field for the UGA game, it won’t be known until Saturday shortly before kickoff.

“Obviously, that will be one of those that it’s got to be right with him, got to be right with the doctors. We’ll see. Kind of game time,” head coach Jim McElwain said. “I thought he moved pretty well. One of the tackling circuits he got beat up by one of the sleds. The sled bit back, but it was good to see. The opportunity to play in this game is something that’s real special and that guy is a real big part of our team. He’ll do anything he can to help us.”

Davis currently leads the Gators in tackles with 48 and is tied for second on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss.

While the status of Davis remains up in the air, McElwain did confirm that two starting defensive linemen, end Jordan Sherit and tackle Joey Ivie, will play against the Bulldogs.  Sherit underwent arthroscopic surgery three weeks ago while Ivie had surgery performed on his thumb the week before.  Additionally, starting defensive end Bryan Cox has a chance to play despite his own thumb injury.

BYU, Utah announce ‘Holy War’ extension through 2022

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Travis Wilson #7 of the Utah Utes runs for a touchdown against defensive back Micah Hannemann #7 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 35-28.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Thankfully, one of the more underrated in-state rivalries isn’t going away anytime soon.

BYU and Utah announced Thursday that the schools have reached an agreement on a two-game extension of their series.  The Cougars will host the first game of the extension Sept. 11, 2021, in Provo while the Utes will return the favor Sept. 3 the following season in Salt Lake City.

The schools had previously agreed to games from 2017 through the 2020 season.

“BYU-Utah is one of the great college rivalries in the country. There’s a lot of history and tradition between the two schools and I’m glad we were able to extend the series through 2022,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe in a statement. “I’ve loved this rivalry as a player, coach and administrator, and look forward to the future games.”

The teams have played 91 times since the series kicked off in 1922.  The Utes hold a 56-31-4 advantage all-time, including a 20-19 win earlier this season.

Jimbo Fisher rules Derwin James out of Clemson game

ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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When Derwin James went down with a torn meniscus in Week 2, Florida State had the Clemson game circled as a potential date for a return.  Unfortunately for both the player and the team, that won’t be the case.

On his weekly call-in show Wednesday night, Jimbo Fisher confirmed that James and his surgically-repaired knee will not play in the Seminoles’ game this Saturday against the Tigers.  There is still no timetable for the sophomore safety’s return.

Hopefully Derwin will be back here soon,” the head coach said.

One thing apparently off the table is a redshirt for James as Fisher said if the defensive back can return at any point this season he will.

The Clemson game will mark the sixth straight missed by James.  FSU will close out the regular season against North Carolina State (Nov. 5), Boston College (Nov. 11), Syracuse (Nov. 19) and Florida Nov. 26).

In less than two full games this season, James was credited with 11 tackles and also has an interception.

As a true freshman last season, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94. He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a consensus freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik AwardNagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists, and is widely considered one of the most talented players on the defensive side of the ball in the country.

FAU loses starting right tackle to season-ending injury

BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Charlie Partridge of the Florida Atlantic Owls looks on during the fourth quarter of the game against the Rice Owls at FAU Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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As Florida Atlantic looks to put a halt to a six-game losing streak, tied with Bowling Green, Fresno State and Kansas for the longest such streak nationally, they’ll have to do so without a starting piece of their offensive line.

Head coach Charlie Partridge announced Wednesday that Bryan Beck will miss the remainder of the 2016 season because of injury. Specifically, the right tackle has an unspecified knee injury.

Beck was pushed into the starting lineup because of a knee injury to senior Kelly Parfitt.

“We’ll attack this challenge like we have the rest of them,” Partridge said of the latest injury setback for his offensive line.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Owls will be using their eight different line combination this weekend. Saturday’s game against Western Kentucky will be FAU’s eighth this season.

A redshirt freshman, Beck has started four games this season. Three of those starts came in the last three games in place of the injured Parfitt.