Alabama wins, but SEC continues to be the ultimate victor

45 Comments

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.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

Getty Images
4 Comments

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

Getty Images
Leave a comment

UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.