Saban: ‘We just couldn’t get the mental energy, intensity we needed’

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All week long, when pundits discussed the chances of Texas A&M upsetting Alabama, they invariably pointed to the emotional toll the Tide’s win over LSU last weekend as something that could swing the game in the Aggies’ favor.

In the aftermath of A&M’s stunning upset of the No. 1 team in the country, and at least to some extent, the Tide’s head coach agreed.

The past four weekends, the Tide has faced three teams that were, at the time, ranked inside the Top 15 as well as its annual cross-division rival in Tennessee.  When asked specifically about the Tigers game taking too much out of the team, Saban uncharacteristically leaned on the emotional crutch graciously provided to him by the reporter.

“I think the players refocused and really tried and it seemed like early in the week we were pretty good, but later in the week, emotionally, I’m not really talking about physically, we just couldn’t seem to get the kind of mental energy and intensity that we needed to play against this kind of team,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “We have had a pretty tough stretch here, and that’s no excuse but, Mississippi State, LSU, and this game – playing at Tennessee, which is a big game for us emotionally.”

To Saban’s credit, it wasn’t even remotely all about what his Tide didn’t have or what may have been lacking in their emotional reserves.  As everyone saw, and whether they’re new to the SEC or not, A&M is one hell of a football team as Saban readily acknowledged.

“[Y]ou have to really congratulate Texas A&M. They played a tremendous game and certainly outplayed us in the game today,” Saban said. “We knew that this was going to be a difficult game and that they had a really good team. They had lost to two top-10 teams by three and five points and they are a better team now that they were then, because the quarterback is playing better every week.

“We were going to need to play our best game today and we didn’t do it and that’s my responsibility.”

The good news for Saban and the Tide is that this is far from a lost season.  The SEC West title is still well within their reach, as is a spot in the BcS title game if certain dominoes fall their way.

Even better?  Of the 23 current starters — 12 listed on the offense — 16 of them are underclassmen and, barring early leaps for the NFL, would return in 2013.  On the two-deep depth chart, 36 of the 46 players are non-seniors.

So, yeah, the Tide will be loaded with talent again in 2013 — talent with the benefit of an additional year’s worth of experience, it should be noted.

UCF’s undefeated team to be honored by NFL at Pro Bowl

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Now even the NFL is in on the gag.  Sort of.

As you no doubt know by now if you’re even a peripheral fan of college football, UCF kicked up quite the ruckus by very proudly and extremely loudly proclaiming themselves national champions after capping off a perfect 13-0 season by defeating Auburn, which beat both of the College Football Playoff game participants.  The football program went so far as to pay its assistants, now at Nebraska after following head coach Scott Frost out the door, the title bonuses they were entitled to contractually, with Disney World throwing the team a championship parade and even the state’s legislature egging the movement on.

Fast-forward to the here and now, and the NFL is getting set for this season’s Pro Bowl, which will be played in Orlando; the Knights, of course, play their home games in the same city. So, naturally, the NFL will honor the team during the game, although it’s expected the league will stop short of officially crowning their asses.

“When we thought about UCF and the amazing season they had going undefeated and their bowl game win, we thought there was really no better way, especially in the city of Orlando, to do something for that college celebration of football than to honor the UCF team in stadium on Sunday,” said Matt Shapiro, director of events strategy for the NFL, told the Orlando Sentinel. “I think we’re going to focus on their undefeated season. I don’t know that we’re going to get into the business of labeling them national champions. But we’re just excited to honor them and celebrate them.

According to the Sentinel, the players in attendance will be invited to walk on to the field at the end of the first quarter to be feted.  Just which players will be in attendance is unclear.

Ohio State promotes Ryan Day to offensive coordinator

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One Ohio State assistant remaining on Urban Meyer‘s coaching staff will apparently come at the expense of another, at least responsibility-wise.

After speculation surfaced over the weekend that Ryan Day was being wooed by an NFL team, it was reported Monday that the assistant would be staying with the Buckeyes.  Tuesday, OSU announced that Day, who just completed his first season as quarterbacks coach and c0-offensive coordinator, has been promoted to offensive coordinator.

That will no doubt raise some eyebrows as Kevin Wilson held the title of coordinator in 2017.  In explaining the move, the football program wrote that “Day will continue to coach the Ohio State quarterbacks and work with Kevin Wilson to lead the Ohio State offense with additional adjustments to [Wilson’s] responsibilities forthcoming.” It would seem those adjustments would at least partially revolve around play-calling, a responsibility that fell to Wilson on gamedays this past fall.

“Ryan is clearly a very talented coach who has been an outstanding addition to our program,” Meyer said in a statement. “He has been approached by other schools numerous times this off-season for coordinator and head coach opportunities, and by the National Football League for a coordinator opportunity. I am pleased that he has elected to continue to work on this staff and to lead, mentor and coach the terrific young men we have in this program.”

Day has been a solo coordinator twice in his coaching career — at Temple in 2012 and then again in 2013-14 at Boston College.

Prior to coming to OSU, Day was the quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 and spent the 2015 season in the same job with the Philadelphia Eagles.  Those were his first two stints at the NFL level.

Starting Utah corner Casey Hughes transfers to Michigan

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Less than two weeks after leaving the Pac-12, Casey Hughes has landed in the Big Ten.

Jan. 10, Hughes announced on Twitter that he had decided to transfer from Utah.  Over the weekend, the defensive back confirmed that he will be transferring into the Michigan football program.

Hughes joins Jim Harbaugh‘s squad as a graduate transfer, which will allow him to use his final season of eligibility with the Wolverines this year.

Hughes started 11 games in 2017 for the Utes, missing two others because of injury.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman in 2014, the North Las Vegas native played in 18 the next two seasons.  He didn’t start any of those contests.

Missouri new home for former LSU QB Lindsey Scott

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After a brief sabbatical, Lindsey Scott is back in the SEC.

Scott confirmed on his personal Twitter account Monday evening that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career at Missouri. Per his social media missive, the quarterback opted for Mizzou over FBS programs like Kansas and UT-San Antonio.

A three-star member of the LSU’s 2016 recruiting class, Scott was rated as the No. 26 dual-threat quarterback in the country and No. 54 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  He took a redshirt his true freshman season.

In August of last year, Scott decided to transfer from the Tigers.  He spent the 2017 season at Last Chance U, otherwise known as East Mississippi Community College.