Gene Chizik, Nick Saban

Tide clinches SEC West, seals Chizik’s fate


Georgia did its part on rivalry Saturday, easily taking care of business in dropping in-state rival Georgia Tech.  A few hours later, Alabama easily did the same.

And, in all likelihood, put the final nail in the coffin of their in-state rival for good measure.

Entering the game as anywhere between 31- and 35-point favorites, the Tide did the expected, rolling to a 42-0 halftime lead over the hapless and helpless Tigers en route to 49-0 woodshedding for the ages.  It was the worst margin of defeat for either side since Alabama dropped 55 on Auburn while shutting out the Tigers way back in 1948.

And it could’ve been an even more of an historical shellacking had the Tide kept its foot on the Tigers’ throat.  In jumping out to that 42-point lead after two quarters, Alabama had outgained Auburn 338-99 in total offense, with the dogs — or elephants as the case may be — being called off in the second half.

The Tide’s evisceration also officially sets up a winner-take-all SEC championship game next weekend in Atlanta.

Alabama, No. 2 in the latest set of BcS rankings, clinched the SEC West with the win and will face Georgia, BcS No. 3, in the Georgia Dome Saturday.  Barring the near-impossible transpiring next Sunday night when the final regular season rankings are released, the winner of the conference title game will fill one of the two spots in the BcS championship game Jan. 7 in Miami, giving the SEC the opportunity to extend its streak of BcS titles to seven.  If Notre Dame can handle USC later tonight, it would set up an Irish-Bulldogs/Tide matchup for all the crystal footballs.

Looking ahead to the upcoming conference title game, the Tide and Bulldogs did not face each other in 2012.  In fact, the two haven’t squared off since 2008, a 41-30 Alabama win over then-No. 3 UGA in Athens in Nick Saban‘s second season as UA’s head coach.

As for Chizik’s fate on The Plains?  The combination of yet another NCAA investigation (somewhat) and miserable on-field performances the past two years (mainly) has the fourth-year coach ticketed for the unemployment line in short order.

The Tigers have lost 10 straight SEC games, with their last win coming Oct. 29 of last year against Ole Miss.  Since winning the BcS championship last season, AU’s 11-14 overall and 4-12 in SEC play, hitting rock bottom in 2012 with a 3-9 record and its first winless conference slate since 1980.  Doug Barfield was fired as head coach following that season, replaced by Pat Dye.  Coincidentally enough, Dye has become one of Chizik’s staunchest supporters.

Whether that support can keep Chizik from being Barfield’d remains to be seen, although there’s even been erosion on the Dye front of late.

Regardless of whether an ex-coach does or doesn’t have the current coach’s back, it’s expected Chizik will be fired as early as Sunday.  The embarrassing loss to Alabama won’t be the determining in Chizik’s fate, though; it’ll merely serve as the icing on a cake that’s gone stale sans a dash of Cam and a pinch of eye of Newton.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

Markell Jones
AP Photo

It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

Associated Press

Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.