Tide runs & rolls over UGA, into title game

104 Comments

From the moment it became unofficially official that the winner of the SEC championship game would earn a spot in the BCS title game, most individuals without a definitive lean toward the Red & Black had already penciled in Alabama as the team opposite Notre Dame in South Beach.

Tuscaloosans, you may unofficially officially break out the Sharpies.

Armed with a punishing running game for which the Georgia defense simply had no answer, the No. 2 Tide rolled over, around and through the No. 3 Bulldogs in claiming their second SEC championship under Nick Saban.  In the 32-28 win, the Tide set an SEC title-game record with 350 yards rushing, although, in an ironic twist, it was a breathtaking 45-yard AJ McCarron-to-Amari Cooper connection with just over three minutes left that proved to be the knockout punch for the defending national champions.

With the win — the closest margin of victory in the SEC title game since 1997 — the Tide sets itself up for an unprecedented third BcS title in four years.  And set the nation up for a BCS title game for the ages, a North vs. South showdown with the Fighting Irish carrying the potential to shatter records for both ratings on game day and vitriol spewed in the weeks leading up to the first week of January.

The Jan. 7 matchup for all the crystal will mark the first game between the two storied programs since 1987.

Alabama’s destination is now known; the late-game road the Tide took to get there?  Much to the detriment of the UGA coaching staff and the angst of the fan base, it will be discussed for months, if not years, to come.

While the player of the game was undoubtedly and literally Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the Tide’s win…  and while the play of the game came off the right arm of a battle-tested veteran into the hands of a fresh-faced freshman… all the while UGA fans will be lamenting what could’ve been courtesy of late-game clock management that only a Kiffin could love.

Taking over at their own 15-yard line with 1:08 left down by four and with no timeouts, the Bulldogs drove down to the Tide eight-yard line, the last 26 coming on an Aaron Murray-to-Arthur Lynch completion with under 20 seconds left.  With the clock stopped for the chains to move for the first down, most expected UGA to hustle to the line, spike the ball with 10-15 seconds left and give themselves at least two, probably three shots at the end zone.

Instead, and inexplicably, Georgia ran a play.  On a pass that was supposed to be a fade-type route into the end zone, it was instead tipped at the line and dropped into the arms of Chris Conley, who dropped to the turf before reaching the sidelines to stop the clock.  With no timeouts remaining, all UGA could do was watch the clock expire on their hopes of a first national championship in more than three decades.

The play in and of itself certainly didn’t cost the Bulldogs the game; their run defense shoulders most of that load.  It did, though, arm Mark Richt‘s detractors with additional ammunition.

However, the end of the game shouldn’t take away the effort both teams spilled on the Georgia Dome turf.  And the history the Alabama Crimson Tide is on the verge of making — becoming the first team to win three titles in four years in the BCS era.

Their opponent will also be looking to stake their claim to some of their own history, with Notre Dame out to break a tie for most-ever Associated Press titles.  The team with which they’re tied at eight?  Alabama.

Roll Tide Roll.  Play Like A Champion Today.

A title game for the ages indeed.

Lamar Jackson leapfrogged by Baker Mayfield as Bovada’s Heisman favorite

Getty Images
1 Comment

So much for that wagering momentum, I guess.

Entering the 2017 season as not only the reigning winner but also as seemingly an afterthought, a pair of scintillating performances to open the year pushed Lamar Jackson to the head of Bovada.lv‘s Heisman Trophy pack.  Coming off a 26-point Week 3 loss to now-No. 2 Clemson in which he totaled nearly 400 yards of offense and three touchdowns, the Louisville quarterback has seen his odds lengthen a bit from 7/4 a week ago to 11/2 in Bovada‘s latest Heisman release.

Bovada’s new betting front-runner?  Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who went from 4/1 to 7/4.  Sam Darnold, 6/1, also saw his odds shorten slightly to a Jackson-match 11/2.

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, 10/1 in the previous odds release, is now at 9/1, same as the holding-steady-from-a-week-ago Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

There’s also, interestingly, one true freshman on the board: J.K. Dobbins.  The Ohio State running back went from off the board to 40/1 odds.  His starting quarterback, J.T. Barrett, saw his odds go from 25/1 to 33/1.

Below is the latest set of 2017 Heisman Trophy odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv.

Illinois adds UCF grad transfer QB Pete DiNovo

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Illinois has an immediate addition to its quarterback room.  Or its wide receivers room, depending on how things play out.

Pete DiNovo confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times Monday that he has decided to transfer to the Illini.  The acknowledgment comes a month after DiNovo decided to transfer from Central Florida.

As a graduate transfer, DiNovo would be eligible to play immediately this season.  Per the player, a former high school teammate and former high school coach currently at Illinois played a role in his decision.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out,” DiNovo told the Times. “I can come up here and learn from Lovie (Smith) and everyone else on the coaching staff.”

DiNovo began his Knights career as a quarterback — he replaced Blake Bortles as UCF’s starter before being quickly replaced himself — before being moved to wide receiver before being moved back under center this offseason.  How the Illini will use DiNovo, who has an eye on a career in coaching after his playing days are over, remains to be seen.

UTEP stays in-house to replace fired OC Brent Pease

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Not surprisingly, UTEP will stay in-house following its in-season dismissal of one of its coordinators.

The Miners confirmed Sunday that offensive coordinator Brent Pease had been fired.  A day later, the football program announced that Brian Natkin has been given the keys to the offense by Sean Kugler and will call the plays moving forward.

Natkin began the season as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.  He was an All-American tight end at UTEP a decade-and-a-half ago and became a full-time assistant at his alma mater in 2011.

Through three games, UTEP ranks second-to-last nationally in total offense at 204.7 yards per game and in yards per play (3.89). The Miners are also 125th (out of 130 teams) in scoring at 13 points per game.

The promotion of Natkin also means there will be some additional adjustments to Kugler’s staff.  Wide receivers coach Chuck Veliz will take over Pease’s other role as quarterbacks coach, while safeties coach Don Yanowsky assume Natkin’s duties as special teams coordinator.

Natkin will continue in his role as tight ends coach.

Oregon State QB Jake Luton discharged from hospital after leaving Wazzu game on a stretcher

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton was taken away on a stretcher after a tackle left him motionless on the Reser Stadium turf on Saturday.

Family members were called to the field, where medical professionals stabilized an apparently unconscious Luton and removed his face mask. The game continued, of course, as Oregon State lost to Washington State 52-23 despite Luton’s 179 passing yards and 22 rushing yards.

Luton tweeted on Saturday night that he’ll “be back.”

Luton has since been discharged from the hospital, according to The Oregonian, though his father posted a message stating Luton was probably dealing with a “thoracic spine fracture.”

Oregon State is off Saturday before hosting Washington on Sept. 30.