Alabama wins, but SEC continues to be the ultimate victor

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The “S-E-C!” chant reached a new level of insufferable during Saturday’s game between Alabama and Michigan that didn’t previously seem possible.

At just under five minutes to go in the second quarter, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson threw an ill-advised pass in the shadow of his own end zone to Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley. In fairness to Robinson, Mosley was wide open. But it didn’t matter, Moseley ran 16 yards with the ball for a touchdown. It was the tail end of a 31-point run by Alabama that, when clocked continuously, lasted just over a quarter’s worth of game time.

Just like that, the game felt over. It wasn’t, of course. Eighth-ranked Michigan would mount a couple of scoring drives before eventually falling to No. 2 Alabama 41-14, but the impression was set early.

That’s when the chant started booming through Cowboys Stadium, right after a PAT put Alabama up 31-0.

“S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!”

I’d like to think that this game between two storied programs was just a game between two storied programs. I’d like to think that Alabama is just a top-notch program that can plug in any player at any position and have success against whatever competition it faces. I’d like to think that Nick Saban is just one of the best coaches in college football because of his ability to take away what other teams do well.

Individually, those are all true statements, but collectively they’re not reality. Michigan-Alabama was more than just a game. It was an opportunity to dethrone the SEC by knocking off the defending BCS champion in prime time on national TV — even if it was solely to show that, yes, football’s elite can be beaten one time out of 100, a la “Little Giants.” This country has SEC fatigue, and why wouldn’t it? Six straight BCS championships is a lot to have shoved in your face all the time.

Take No. 14 Clemson’s 26-19 win tonight over Auburn in Atlanta for example. Aubie may be the fourth or fifth-best team in the SEC West, but that’s not what people were talking about. Clemson beat an SEC team, so it’s labeled as a statement win. No other conference has that kind of rapport.

So when a crowd of crimson starts chanting “S-E-C!”, there’s nothing that can be done to stop it because no team’s shown it can on the field when it matters most.

Michigan tried, but the irony is that it was Alabama’s physicality, not necessarily speed, that was the separating factor. The Wolverines have speed too. Robinson had some signature open field runs on a couple of occasions, and Michigan’s receivers got behind coverage from time to time. But Robinson can’t throw the ball well enough to keep most opponents on their heels consistently and no one’s going to run sideline to sideline against Alabama successfully.

There’s nothing too complicated about it: Alabama was the better team with a favorable matchup. It doesn’t guarantee that one’s going to be more successful than the other going forward, but the storyline of the Big Ten vs. SEC is always a compelling one, so that’s what it was about tonight.

And the SEC won. Again.

Eventually, an SEC team will lose a Cowboys Classic or championship game. It has to happen. When that day comes, it’ll feel like a national holiday to everyone outside that part of the country.

Until then, all any of us can do is shrug our shoulders when the chant starts up again.

Iowa loses RB James Butler ‘at least through the bye’

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Iowa sat Akrum Wadley for much of Saturday’s 31-14 win over North Texas after he was flagged for a (frankly ridiculous) excessive celebration penalty for high-stepping his way to the Kinnick Stadium end zone. (The score was wiped off the board, but Iowa completed the drive with a touchdown anyway.) The Hawkeyes will have no choice but to give him carries now.

Running back James Butler (20) has injured an elbow that will keep him out for the next few weeks.

“I think James will be out through the bye week,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said, via Hawkeye Report. “It will be a couple of weeks before we get him back.”

A Nevada transfer with two 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, Butler was a graduate transfer addition to the Hawkeyes, announcing his transfer on July 4. He ranks second on the club with 36 carries for 158 yards thus far in 2017, carrying a season-high 16 times for 74 yards before the injury.

Butler’s carries figure to go to fellow senior Wadley and freshmen Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin. Wadley leads the club with 60 carries for 258 yards and a touchdown, and Young and Kelly-Martin have combined to rush 30 times for 152 yards and two scores. Young made his debut in Wadley’s absence in the second half Saturday, rushing 19 times for 78 yards.

The 3-0 Hawkeyes host No. 4 Penn State on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), then visit undefeated Michigan State the week after (4 p.m. ET, FOX). Iowa will host Illinois before its Oct. 14 bye week.

Lincoln Riley to earn $3.1 million a year as OU head coach

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Lincoln Riley won’t be paid nearly as much as Bob Stoops was as Oklahoma’s head coach, but he’ll earn significantly more than he did as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator.

Oklahoma approved and released Riley’s new deal on Tuesday, a 5-year contract that pays him $3.1 million annually and rises $200,000 a year. Stoops made $5.5 million in his last season, according to USA Today, while Riley earned $900,000 as offensive coordinator.

Perks include 25 hours of private airplane use, not one but two private golf club membership, and bonuses ranging from $25,000 for winning Big 12 coach of the year honors to $250,000 for a national championship.

Riley is 3-0 in his young tenure, already proving himself to be a tremendous bargain for the Sooners.

SEC releases 2018 schedule

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The SEC released its 2018 slate on Tuesday, beginning the weekend of Sept. 1 and running through the SEC Championship on Saturday, Dec. 1. It would be entirely pointless to break down winners and losers of the ’18 slate considering we don’t really even know who’s good yet in 2017 — other than Alabama — and we especially don’t know who will be good in ’18 — other than ‘Bama, of course.

But we can point out some dates that look interesting as we sit here on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the year of our Lord 2017. And, no, intra-divisional games don’t count, since they are played every year.

  • Auburn vs. Washington — Sept. 1 (at Atlanta)
  • Alabama vs. Louisville — Sept. 1 (at Orlando)
  • LSU vs. Miami — Sept. 1 (at Dallas)
  • Tennessee vs. West Virginia (at Charlotte)
  • Clemson at Texas A&M — Sept. 8
  • Vanderbilt at Notre Dame — Sept. 15
  • Florida at Mississippi State — Sept. 29
  • Tennessee at Auburn — Oct. 13

Consult the full schedule here. 

Louisville-Ole Miss 2021 Chick-fil-A Kickoff opener made official

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After reports had signaled it, it’s a done deal.

The “it” in this case is Louisville opening the 2021 season against Ole Miss, with the two programs confirming Tuesday that they will square off in one of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games that year.  The game will be played at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, although a date and kickoff time are still to be determined.

The 2021 game will mark the first-ever meeting between the football teams.  Each has made one previous appearance in the Kickoff Game, Louisville in 2015 (31-24 loss to Auburn) and Ole Miss in 2014 (35-13 win over Boise State).

“To have the opportunity to play in this game again for the second time is a huge win for our program,” Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said in a statement. “We are honored to be welcomed back by the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, which is a tremendous testament to our loyal fan base, who helped pack the stadium in 2015. Our fans have a great history of traveling, and to have the opportunity to play a great program like Ole Miss in this brand-new facility will certainly be a hot ticket for the fans. Gary Stokan and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl group do a tremendous job with this game and we appreciate them selecting Louisville for what has become the premier game to kick off the season.”

“We are thrilled to once again be part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. We always set the goal to end the regular season in Atlanta, so it’s only fitting that’s where we begin it,” Jurich’s Ole Miss counterpart, Ross Bjork, said in his. “With our strong alumni base in Georgia, Rebel Nation will arrive in full force to experience this premier matchup in the nation’s finest new stadium. In addition, the Atlanta market is a key recruiting area for our staff, and this trip offers a tremendous opportunity to compete in front of those prospects.”

Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Alabama and Miami would square off in the other Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game the opening weekend of the 2021 season.