Saban rips ‘self-absorbed people’, their playoff models

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The battle between the SEC and Big Ten: it not’s just for on-field breakfast anymore.

Earlier this month, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, a powerful proponent of a four-team playoff model that would consist of at least three conference winners instead of the four top-ranked teams, appeared to take a shot at Alabama when asked about the future makeup of a college football playoff.

I don’t have a lot of regard for that team,” Delany said when asked about a non-divisional winner qualifying for what will become a revamped postseason in the sport.  While Delany didn’t specifically mention the Tide, and later claimed that he wasn’t anyway, there’s little way around the fact that he was, at least in part, getting a shot in at the Tide; following a 2011 season that saw them fail to win the SEC West let alone the conference, UA beat fellow SEC member LSU in January to claim its second BcS title in three years and the sixth straight overall for the conference.

The combination of that rematch, the overall dominance of the SEC the past several years and the desire to protect the Rose Bowl at all costs has led to a push by Delany and others to limit any four-team playoff to, essentially, only teams that have won their respective conferences — or even a bastardized “playoff” in the form of a plus-one in order to insulate the Granddaddy of Them All.

Such talk has apparently gotten to the head coach of last season’s non-division-winning, BcS-title-winning team.  In his most pointed comments to date, and while not mentioning Delany or the Big Ten/Pac-12 specifically, Nick Saban fired a shot directly across the bow of that rosy entity, ripping unnamed people for what he sees as an effort to do what’s best for themselves and not what’s best for the sport.

“It’s self-absorbed people who are worried about how it affects their circumstance or their league rather than what’s best for college football who would want to do that,” Saban said at the SEC’s annual Destin, Fla., meetings, responding to a question about a conference champs-only playoff. “It’s not what’s best for the fans because they’ve made it very clear what they want it to be.”

To the credit of the Big Ten/Pac-12, though, it seems as if they are willing to “compromise” on a playoff model, with conference champs qualifying for a four-team field only if they’re ranked in the top six, with the other spot or spots being filled by the highest-ranked non-conference-winning team or teams.

Saban specifically and the SEC in general, however, want to see a field that consists of the four highest-ranked teams, period.

“People want to see the best four teams play in a playoff,” he said. “The problem in college football is there’s not equal parity in the leagues. Some leagues are stronger than others in different years. It’s not always going to be where the SEC is stronger than another league. There’s going to be years when other leagues are stronger than the SEC. It’s not an SEC thing. History in recent years would say that, but that’s how it’s been all the way through.

“I think you’re going to get a lot of real complaining if we have a four-team playoff and we go through all this that we’re going through to try to implement this and execute it and, all of a sudden, next year we have the No. 1 team, the No. 3 team, the No. 7 team and the No. 11 team being the four teams in the playoffs. There’s going to be a mutiny on the ship, there’s no question about that.”

Last season, Big Ten champ Wisconsin was the No. 10 team in the final regular season BcS standings and would’ve qualified for a playoff berth — ahead of Alabama and others — if the conference champs-only model had been in place.

By the end of the SEC’s meetings this week, the conference is expected to have an official stance on its vision of what a college football postseason should look like.  Based on precedence, there’s little doubt that vision will consist of taking the four highest-ranked teams regardless of placement in their conference standings.

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.

Edgerrin James’ nephew to transfer from Miami

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Last season, Jeff James was one of seven players  suspended for Miami’s Russell Athletic Bowl game against West Virginia.  Nearly four months later, he’s gone.

In a press release, Miami announced that the defensive back “is no longer a member of the football program.” No reason was given for the nephew of former Hurricane great Edgerrin James deciding to leave The U.

“I talked to Jeff and we both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else,” head coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

James was a three-star member of UM’s 2016 recruiting class.  247Sports.com had the Orlando high school product rated as the No. 112 safety in the country and the No. 1,678 player in its composite rankings.

The defensive back played in one game as a true freshman, the season-opening win over FCS Florida A&M.