Alabama's Jones celebrates after teammate McCarron rushed for a touchdown against LSU during NCAA football game in Baton Rouge

A.J. McCarron proves he’s more than a ‘game manager’


Unfairly, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was labeled a game manager. Coincidentally, he earned it in last season’s BCS championship game against LSU when he played solid, mistake-free football. With an All-American offensive line, a stable of elite running backs and a defense stocked with talent, the pressure’s never really been on the second-year starter to lead a two-minute drill or make the big throws.

But, eventually, it’s going to happen. Every team needs their quarterback to win at least one game for them. Down 17-14 to LSU Saturday night in Death Valley with 1:34 remaining, the Tide needed McCarron to be more than a game manager. And he was. A lot more. The junior completed four of five passes over 72 yards in 43 seconds, the final one a screen pass to running back T.J. Yeldon for 28-yard touchdown.

It was a perfect play call. Less than a minute later, No. 1 Alabama did what few teams have done against Les Miles: go into Baton Rouge at night and come out with a 21-17 win over the No. 5 Tigers.

John will have a special “Fifth Quarter” sifting through the aftermath of what was easily the best game of the day coming up here in a bit; this here is all about McCarron.

He wasn’t all great. McCarron was hot and cold all night and the Tide usually went as he did. In fact, if not for his game-winning drive, this would have been about the proverbial light coming on for Zach Mettenberger. The first-year starter for LSU played his best game of the season, throwing for 298 yards and a touchdown. It was the way college football pundits all over the country thought Mettenberger, the supposed “missing piece” for the Tigers, should have looked all year.

Mettenberger deserves a lot of praise for the way he played tonight, and if you’re going to assess who had the better game between the two QBs, Mettenberger would win that distinction. But McCarron won what really mattered, when it mattered. Now, and with all due respect to the likes of Tennessee and Mississippi State, the Tide have a victory over its first “real test” of 2012. There shouldn’t have been any mistake before, but there’s certainly none now: Alabama is playing like the best team in the country. Keep winning and a second consecutive BCS championship appearance — the third under Nick Saban — is guaranteed to be in play.

Who knows what challenges Alabama will face to get there — maybe they won’t — but they’ll have a chance as long as McCarron’s taking snaps.

After tonight, he’s going to be known as a game-changer.

Starting Northwestern CB ruled out vs. Ohio State

Michigan State tight end Josiah Price, left, catches a pass for a touchdown against Northwestern's Trae Williams during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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Struggling mightily in the passing game, Ohio State may have caught a bit of a break as the Buckeyes look to rebound from just their fifth in the four-plus years under Urban Meyer.

On Northwestern’s official injury report, cornerback Trae Williams is listed as out for the Wildcats’ Week 9 matchup with the Buckeyes in Columbus. Williams is dealing with an injury that the school has not specified.

The redshirt freshman also missed the Week 8 win over Indiana because of the injury.

Prior to that, Williams had started the previous four games, the first four starts of his collegiate career. This season, Williams has been credited with 20 tackles and has one of the Wildcats’ seven interceptions.

With Williams sidelined, Alonzo Mayo will get the start opposite Montre Hartage. The redshirt freshman made his first career start in place of Williams last weekend.

Louisville, WKU announce three-game series

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 06:   Louisville Cardinals cheerleaders perform during the game against the Murray State Racers at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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A pair of FBS schools from the state of Kentucky will be getting back together on the gridiron after a sabbatical of nearly two decades.

Louisville and Western Kentucky announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement on a three-game series that will actually be played in the not-too-distant future. Two of the games will be played at the U of L’s Papa John’s Stadium in 2018 and 2020.

The third will be played at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium in 2019.

“It’s great for both schools that we were able to resume this series against an in-state school of Western Kentucky’s caliber,” U of L athletic director Tom Jurich said in a statement. “Because of the proximity of both schools, I think it’s a tremendous win for the state of Kentucky and each fan base. I’m thrilled we were able to lock down a three-game series versus WKU.”

“We are excited to begin a football series with the University of Louisville,” Jurich’s WKU counterpart, Todd Stewart, said in his statement. “These three games will be exciting for both fan bases and good for college football in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We continually try to develop strong non-conference schedules each year while also focusing on regional match ups that enable our fans to attend games outside of Bowling Green. A series with Louisville checks all of those boxes, and we appreciate Louisville’s administration and football program for their efforts and cooperation.”

The two teams have met 31 times previously, with the first coming in 1922 and the most recent in 1998. The Cardinals hold a 19-12 advantage in the series.

The Hilltoppers are currently coached by former Cardinals quarterback Jeff Brohm.

Virginia Tech grabs control of ACC Coastal with win over Pitt

Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans (4) throws the ball against Pittsburgh in the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/John Heller)
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It’s not quite over, but No. 25 Virginia Tech will be firmly entrenched in the driver’s seat of the ACC Coastal heading into the final month of the regular season.

Thanks in large part to 406 yards passing from Jerod Evans, Tech was able to survive off a fourth-quarter rally by Pittsburgh and secure a 39-36 road win Thursday night.  Evans’ performance was easily the best of his career, and just the second time he’s gone for 300-plus yards.  The first (307) for the first-year starter came just two weeks ago in a loss to Syracuse.

Evans was also part of an offense that rolled up a season-high 556 yards on the night.

With the win, Tech improves to 4-1 in conference play, tied with North Carolina for the Coastal lead.  However, by virtue of the Hokies’ Oct. 8 win over the Tar Heels, they control their own destiny in the division.  Tech has three league games remaining — at Duke (0-3) and home games against Georgia Tech (1-3)  and Virginia (1-2) — and, if they win all three, they will represent the division in the ACC championship game.  UNC would need to win out plus see Tech lose at least one game in order to win the division.

Pitt fell to 3-2, with those two losses coming to VT and UNC, meaning they have essentially eliminated themselves from Coastal contention.  In a losing effort, Pitt running back James Conner contributed 141 yards and three scores on the ground on just 19 carries.

Jury awards former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary $7.3 million after defamation suit

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JANUARY 24: Former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary stands in line with other mourners as they wait to pay respect to former Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno during a public viewing at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the campus of Penn State on January 24, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno, who was 85, died due to complications from lung cancer on January 22, 2012. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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A Pennsylvania jury has awarded former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary a whopping $7.3 million on Thursday evening in a case that found the school defamed him for his role in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the jury (which included two PSU employees) took just under four hours to render the verdict. While the lawsuit is not completely over because a judge has to rule on McQueary’s whistleblower claim, the verdict is nevertheless a blow to the Nittany Lions after the school was found guilty of defamation and misrepresentation in the case.

McQueary, a former quarterback in State College and an assistant under Joe Paterno, was at the center of the Sandusky scandal back in 2011. He allegedly witnessed Sandusky’s sexual assault of a boy in team facilities back in 2001 and reported what he saw to Paterno and others, but nothing was done about the crime. The revelations a key part in a case against Sandusky and eventually led to the ouster of Paterno and McQueary’s subsequent loss of his own job at the school.

The timing of the news is probably not what Penn State fans wanted to hear about this week after they celebrated the program’s biggest win since the scandal last Saturday in a come from behind victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State.