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.”

Miami defense shutting down Pitt; Hurricanes lead 23-3 at half

Brad Kaaya

It may be hard to believe, but Miami is in position to end the season with nine wins. That assumes, of course, the Hurricanes avoid a second half meltdown against Pittsburgh and close out the year with a bowl win. For now, Miami should be feeling pretty good as the Hurricanes have stomped Pitt in the first half of an early kickoff in western Pennsylvania. Miami took a 23-3 lead into the half.

Miami has more than doubled the total offensive production of the Panthers, outgaining Pitt at halftime 248 yards to 102. The Panthers have just 36 passing yards and 66 rushing yards in the half. Pitt also had a turnover with Nathan Peterman having a pass picked off by Artie Burns.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 166 yards, with Rashawn Scott on the receiving end of the touchdown play and leading the team with 50 receiving yards. Miami’s Joseph Yardley leads all players with 64 rushing yards. Pitt’s star receiver, Tyler Boyd, has just one catch for eight yards.

Houston takes halftime lead on Navy in AAC West winner-takes-all contest

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If Houston is going to slow down Navy’s offense, keeping it off the field is a good way to go about it. In a battle for the American Athletic Conference West Division title, and home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game, Houston has used methodic ball control to its advantage and leads the Midshipmen 24-14 at halftime. Greg Ward Jr.‘s five-yard touchdown run gave the home team the lead just minutes after Houston successfully converted a fourth down and short after a timeout.

Houston took the game’s opening possession 82 yards for a touchdown after 13 plays for an early lead. Greg Ward Jr. completed a short pass to Steven Dunbar from five yards out for the score, but Navy answered with a touchdown drive on their opening possession. Keenan Reynolds ripped off a 52-yard run and later capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

Houston again put together a lengthy and time-consuming touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. The Cougars took 13 plays to move 76 yards for a score, this time seeing Brandon Wilson complete the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before Navy once again tied the game with Reynolds completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman.

Report: Washington State QB Luke Falk won’t play in Apple Cup

Luke Falk
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Earlier this week it was looking as though Washington State quarterback Luke Falk might be available to play Washington in this year’s edition of the Apple Cup. Now the outlook is not so good.

According to a report from Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times, Washington State will start Peyton Bender at quarterback against the Huskies. Falk, who is recovering form a concussion last week, is not expected to dress for the game. It will be the first start of the redshirt freshman’s career. Bender has appeared in four games this season serving as Falk’s backup. In his limited playing time, Bender has completed 17 of 33 pass attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He has been picked off twice.

The loss of Falk is certainly a blow to Washington State’s offense, although we will see if Mike Leach has a system in place where he can plug in a quarterback and still get the production through the air as has been the case during his career. There is no word on whether or not Falk will be available for the bowl season, although that would seem to look possible given more time to recover from a concussion.

NCAA denies sixth-year for Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt

Terrel Hunt

Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt will not get a sixth year of eligibility. The NCAA has denied a request to extend Hunt’s eligibility by one more year, Syracuse announced today.

Hunt had his 2014 and 2015 seasons cut short due to injuries. A broken leg in 2014 forced Hunt to miss the final seven games of the season. An Achilles tendon injury against Rhode Island in the 2015 season opener has sidelined Hunt for the entire 2015 season, effectively.

“Obviously, it’s very disappointing but I want to thank my teammates, coaches and all the Syracuse fans who have supported me through this process and during my time here,” Hunt said in a statement shared by Syracuse athletics. “Even though my career didn’t turn how I thought it would, I still have a lot of great memories that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.

“Right now I’m focused on my rehab and on finishing graduate school. I’m getting better every day and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to continue my career at the professional level.”

Hunt’s Syracuse career will end with 2,621 passing yards and 24 touchdowns (11 passing, 13 rushing).