Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron celebrates after his team defeated the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Fifth Quarter: Alabama-LSU Rewind

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Yes, this game was so big it gets its own Rewind.  Your regularly-scheduled “The Fifth Quarter: Week 10 Rewind” will appear, in its entirety, later on in the day Sunday.

Ben did a helluva job with the post-game recap of one of the more entertaining football games you’ll see at any level, a 21-17 win for the top-ranked team in the nation.  Below is a little bit of the minutia and talking points that may or may not litter sports radio shows and water cooler conversations throughout the weekend and into the start of a new work week.

THE TURNING POINT
The first five drives of the second half, LSU’s relentlessly stifling defense had held Alabama’s offense in check, limiting the No. 1 Tide to 49 yards of total offense.  In those five series, the No. 5 Tigers forced four three-and-outs and one fumble.

And then came the sixth drive.

After a missed 38-yard field goal attempt gave the Tide the ball at their own 28-yard line with 1:34 left in the game, LSU, which had been in full-blown attack mode on defense throughout, went into full-blown soft-zone mode.  It turned out to be the worst of several questionable decisions made by Les Miles and his coaching staff throughout the game.

In three plays after taking possession, and in less than 40 seconds, the Tide gained nearly as many yards (44) as they had in the entire second half previously, moving from their own 28 to the same yard line on LSU’s side of the field.  Following an incompletion on the fourth play of what would prove to be the game-winning drive, LSU again donned their blitzing caps… and the Tide made the Tigers pay dearly, dialing up a perfectly-executed screen pass from AJ McCarron to T.J. Yeldon that saved both the game and the Tide’s title aspirations.

It’s hard to blame LSU for trying to prevent the one big play that would cost them the game.  It’s not hard to blame LSU, though, for a decision that allowed a trio of mini-big plays, ultimately leading to the big play.

THUMBS UP

Back-to-back still intact
Suffice to say, the biggest winner of the night was Alabama’s title hopes.  If last week was the Tide’s first real test of the 2012 season, tonight was their first real test of the year.  And, while they didn’t pass with the flying colors of a week ago, they passed.  At this stage of the season, that’s all that matters — for the most part.  While the Tide had walked, talked, smelled and played like an unstoppable force through eight games — so  much so, in fact, that the laughable notion of UA being able to beat an NFL team was actually taking hold — they were anything but that for a sizable chunk of the first 58 minutes.  As odd as it sounds, though, that might’ve been the second most important development of the night as it gives Nick Saban‘s coaching arsenal yet another pointed teaching tool to use on what is still, despite all of the wins and lofty rankings, a very young football team.  Complacency will likely be the Tide’s biggest enemy for the remainder of the regular season; the LSU game tape would serve as the ultimate trump card, as evidenced by Saban’s quotes following the game.

“Our players have to be aware that they can take this one way or the other,” the coach said of the hard-fought win. “This one is either going to affect them in a positive way or a negative way with what they do in the future. They can focus on the things they didn’t do and take the next challenge and continue to improve and be ready to play next week and prepare and practice next week or they can say, ‘We’re satisfied for ourselves with what we did.'”

AJ’s Heisman hopes
AJ McCarron, because of Alabama’s style of play, will simply not put up the type of numbers that other Heisman contenders do on a weekly basis, and that was never more evident than this latest Saturday night in Death Valley.  That final drive, however, was the stuff of which legends are made.  And the stuff that attracts the attention of Heisman voters regardless of the stat line for the first 58 minutes.  The raw, from-the-heart emotion McCarron displayed as the final seconds ticked off the clock and then boiled over as he met his parents beyond the end zone after the game were as epic, in a good way, as his engineering of the final drive.  I don’t know if the junior deserves to win the Heisman, but he certainly belongs in the discussion.

The SEC
If you don’t think the SEC was privately and/or publicly rooting for an Alabama win, you might consider removing your head from the sand as it’s awfully hot and hard to breathe down there.  For the conference in general and the Tide specifically, the stakes couldn’t have been higher.  An Alabama loss would’ve left the SEC with no unbeaten teams.  When combined with three other highly-ranked teams still unbeaten — four if you want to consider Louisville as part of the mix — the SEC’s streak of six straight BcS titles would’ve been in serious jeopardy, with the conference in the uncharted territory of relying on outside help for a ticket to the title game.  Fortunately for the SEC, the Tide’s win left the conference with the inside track for one of the two spots in the BcS championship game.  Just as fortunate?  There were no controversial calls that favored Alabama and played a role in the outcome of the game…

Death Valley didn’t disappoint
Forget the fact that LSU lost just its second home game under the lights (Florida, 2009) under Les Miles.  The atmosphere at Tiger Stadium, even from my vantage point a little over 1,000 miles, is simply electric and by all accounts deafening, which makes the Tide’s triumph all the more impressive.  If you were to make a list of the greatest venues for any sport in the country, it wouldn’t take long to call roll before you got to Death Valley.  It’s a credit to the university, the football program and, most importantly, the fan base that such a spectacle exists.  Yes, the loss was certainly disappointing to those that live and die with the Bayou Bengals, but they can take heart in the knowledge that they are a big part of what makes the sport of college football so great.  And, yes, a trip to Death Valley is on my sports bucket list.  Gotta get there at some point for a night game…

Democrats
Regardless of what the polls may or may not say, the Democratic Party has to be feeling pretty good heading into Tuesday based solely on the results of a football game.  Why?  According to research conducted by FanSided.com, the winner of the Alabama-LSU has accurately predicted the results of all seven presidential elections held since 1984.  In years that Alabama won, a Democrat won the election.  In years LSU won, a Republican was sent to the White House. So, with the Tide’s win, is it hello second term for the sitting president?  Your mileage may vary greatly as to whether an eighth-consecutive accurate prediction would be a positive or negative development.

THUMBS DOWN

The Mad Hatter
Take your pick on the daffiest of the daftness of the Mad Hatter in this game.  Was it the failed fake field goal that everybody — including the Tide’s defense and my grandmother, who’s been six feet under for two decades — saw coming?  The failed onside kick, which admittedly would’ve been idiot savant-level genius were it not for a quirky bounce that resulted in an illegal touching penalty on the kicker?  The failed 54-yard field goal attempt that gave the Tide prime field position with just over a minute left in the second quarter, and which the Tide turned into a touchdown and a 14-3 lead heading into the half?  A failed fourth-and-one from the Alabama 24, one in which LSU utilized its version of the gimmicky Wildcat offense after it had been very successful running the football with the standard power game?  Individually, these plays didn’t cost LSU the game.  Collectively, they were part of the subtle flow of the game that set the table for the game-winning drive.

Oh, Copeland…
Midway through the second quarter, a fumbled punt on the part of the Tide was recovered by the Tigers at UA’s 32-yard line.  On the ensuing play, a 19-yard run by Jeremy Hill moved the Tigers down to the 13-yard line… and a post-play personal foul on J.C. Copeland moved the ball back to the 28.  While it was still first and 10 following the penalty, all the momentum gained from the previous two plays was lost as the Tigers gained just one yard the next three, leading to the failed fake field goal.  The penalty almost certainly cost the Tigers at least a field goal, if not a touchdown.  In what was a four-point loss, and even as it occurred in the first half, Copeland’s momentary lapse of reason was a significant moment in the game.

Who are you and what’d you do with the Tide’s defense?
Through the first eight games of the season, Alabama led the country by stingily giving up just a little over 57 yards per game on the ground; LSU churned out 80 rushing yards… in the first quarter alone.  For the game, the Tigers rushed for 139 yards; previously, the most the Tide had given up in a single game this season was 80 to Ole Miss in Week 5.  Add that to some very suspect play in the passing game, and we’re guessing Nick Saban will spend an inordinate amount of time tightening things up on that side of the ball as the Tide preps for the high-octane Texas A&M Aggies’ trip to Tuscaloosa this Saturday.

McCarron’s Heisman hopes
As great as the final drive was, the first 58:26 was as choppy of a game McCarron has played in his one-plus seasons as the Tide’s starting quarterback.  On that final drive, McCarron was 4-5 for 72 yards and a touchdown; prior to that, he was 10-22 for 93 yards and one rushing touchdown.  On what will be his second-biggest stage before votes are cast — the SEC championship being the biggest, provided the Tide can navigate games against A&M and Auburn — the question will become what voters give the most weight to when it comes to McCarron’s stiff-armed candidacy: the first 58, or final two.

QUOTABLE

“I’ve never been prouder of a bunch of guys to overcome adversity. … It’s something I’ll never forget.” — Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

“It was a very hard game. We needed a hard game.” — Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.

“You’ll remember this one forever.  It hurts worse than the [loss to Alabama] in the national championship game.” — LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

— From the UA Sports Information Department: AJ McCarron continues to build his school record of passes without an interception. McCarron ends the LSU game with an active streak of 289 passing attempts without an interception.

— Speaking of McCarron, the junior is one touchdown pass away from tying and two away from breaking Greg McElroy‘s single-season mark of 20 set in 2010.  He’s also 10 touchdown passes away from breaking John Parker Wilson‘s career mark of 47.

— Despite the loss, quarterback Zach Mettenberger came of age for the Tigers.  In unquestionably his finest performance in his first season as a starter, Mettenberger completed 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and, most impressively considering the opposition’s defense, no interceptions.

— Until late in the third quarter, LSU had gone 169:38 without scoring a touchdown against Alabama, a span that stretched back to 8:13 left in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 6, 2010, win over the Tide and which covered two-plus games.  Then, in a span of 5:37, the Tigers exploded for a pair of touchdowns.

— The 435 yards of total offense by the Tigers was the most surrendered by a Tide defense since a loss to the same team in November of 2007, Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa.

— The attendance of 93,374 is a new Tiger Stadium record.

— Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU, 47-25-5.

Michigan spent nearly $350,000 on spring break trip to IMG Academy

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during warm-ups before the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on October 31, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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When Jim Harbaugh goes on vacation, he does it big.

The world’s most notable khaki pants aficionado went to France last summer and, as was well-publicized at the time, brought the entire Michigan roster to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for a spring break football trip.

According to the Detroit News, that trip cost Michigan’s football program nearly $350,000.

That $348,553 figure represents nearly 10 percent of the entire athletics budget at Coppin State, according to the most recent figures on record from USA Today, the lowest in Division I.

Michigan, meanwhile, spent over $151 million on athletics — and that figure will only go up considering the month-long satellite camp tour Harbaugh has planned for his staff in June.

Imposter used alias of Vols football player for Snapchat extortion scheme

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 02:  Cameron Sutton #23 of the Tennessee Volunteers runs past Dalton Ferguson #76 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field on January 2, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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A Sweetwater, Tenn., man is accused of using the likeness of Tennessee football player Cameron Sutton to run an extortion scheme over Snapchat.

According to WBIR in Knoxville, federal authorities have charged 22-year-old Brandon Shanahan with intent to extort money and other things from a woman using the alias “Camsutton2323.”

Sutton, a senior defensive back from Jonesboro, Ga., wears number 23.

Case documents indicate the woman sent the person she thought was a Volunteers cornerback nude photos through the messaging app. The next day, authorities say, Shanahan threatened to post the photos online unless she sent more. Investigators believe Shanahan used the scheme to contact other women as well.

If convicted of criminal impersonation, Shanahan faces up to two years in prison.

Proposed Big 12 rule change would give Baker Mayfield extra year of eligibility at Oklahoma

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5:  Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a touchdown against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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A proposed rule change up for vote at the Big 12’s faculty athletics representatives meetings could have a wide effect on the college football season in 2017.

As reported by Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News, the Big 12 will vote on a rule that would allow non-recruited walk-ons — like Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield — to transfer within the conference without penalty.

Mayfield walked on to Texas Tech’s roster in 2013 and immediately won the starting job as a true freshman. The combination of injuries and bad blood between he and Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury led Mayfield to transfer to Oklahoma, where he also walked on. (Sooners head coach Bob Stoops famously didn’t meet Mayfield until he’d already joined his roster.) Mayfield and his father James exhausted the appeals process both inside the Big 12 and nationally through the NCAA to no avail.

Because of that, Mayfield, a 3,700-yard passer for the 2015 Big 12 champions and College Football Playoff semifinalists in 2015, will be a senior in 2016 at Oklahoma — but could transfer again to another school and play outside the Big 12 in 2017. Fear of that potential embarrassment is what spurred this proposal to next week’s docket.

“I think we all ought to be a little bit thoughtful about it,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Morning News. “Absent Baker Mayfield getting relief, he’ll have a year of eligibility left and won’t be able to use it in our conference but instead would go someplace else and use it. That might not be in anybody’s best interest.”

Bowlsby and OU athletics director Joe Castiglione stressed the rule change would be bigger than just one quarterback, but, let’s be honest: if Mayfield was still a Red Raider, this issue would be on exactly no one’s radar.

And now, thanks to college sports’ goofy governance system, a group of Big 12 faculty chaired by Kansas chemical and petroleum engineering professor Susan Stagg-Williams will vote on Wednesday at campus headquarters in suburban Dallas on a rule that will have wide-sweeping impact on college football next year.

Another interesting angle to this is that, no matter how the votes tally, the result will be bittersweet for the Sooners. Either Oklahoma sees the nation’s No. 3 most efficient passer from 2015 receives the opportunity to play elsewhere in 2017, or Kyler Murray sits on the bench one year longer than anticipated. And Oklahoma can ask their former Big 12 bunkmates at Texas A&M how the Murray camp will probably handle that.

Reports say Rutgers to face Maryland at Yankee Stadium in 2017

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23:  General view as CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch to Adam Rosales #9 of the Texas Rangers in the second inning on May 23, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The goal of adding Rutgers to the Big Ten was to extend the conference’s brand into New York. So it would be nice to have the Big Ten’s “New York team” actually play in New York every so often.

On that front, Rutgers has lined up a game with Maryland at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 4, 2017, according to multiple reports.

Dan Duggan of NJ.com reported former Knights AD Julie Hermann originally agreed to move a game to the House That Jeter Built for the 2017 season.

“There were discussions by the previous administration with the Yankees and an agreement in principle was reached,” Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs told the site on Friday. “I’m reviewing those terms and we’ll announce our intention in due course.”

Rutgers brass appeared at a Yankees game on Tuesday to promote the budding relationship between the two entities.

“(The Yankees) want to work more closely with us,” Hobbs told NJ.com Tuesday. “We want to look at maybe bringing a game here and announcing that sometime down the road. I guess the Yankees see Rutgers is starting to move forward and is a good story so they want to be part of it, too.”

Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash threw out the first pitch before the pinstripers’ game earlier this week.

“They kind of explained the configuration of the stadium for a football game and it looked like it would be a really neat set-up,” Ash said. “It looks like from the suite anyway, if you were in cold weather in the fall or in December, that would be a pretty good place to watch a game.”

Yankee Stadium hosted a Notre Dame-Army game in 2010, and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl (with which the Big Ten is affiliated) has been a post-Christmas bowl week staple since that same season.

Hobbs said a game at Yankee Stadium will help toward the Rutgers-Yankees relationship he’s been hoping to build, which makes perfect sense when you’re Rutgers and they’re the Yankees.

“There are a tremendous amount of Rutgers alums who work here in the city, so it’s really important,” Hobbs said. “It’s important for our relationship if we can be with an iconic organization like the Yankees. They have a lot of the history that we would like to start building at Rutgers.”