SEC Championship - Alabama v Georgia

Tide runs & rolls over UGA, into title game

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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.

Record-breaking QB one of two coaches hired by New Mexico State

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Doug Martin‘s 2017 on-field coaching staff will have a decidedly familiar feel to it, even as it’s in some ways brand-new.

New Mexico State announced that two coaches have been hired by Martin, Chase Holbrook and Kai Brown.  The former will serve as tight ends coach, the latter as defensive ends coach.

Holbrook spent the 2016 season as a quality control coach for Mike Leach at Washington State.  A former NMSU quarterback, he still owns the school’s single-season and career records for passing, passing attempts, completions, touchdowns, total offense and total touchdowns.

Brown was a graduate assistant the past three seasons for the football program.

“We are really excited about Chase coming back to New Mexico State,” Martin said. “Having a former great quarterback that has his name written all over the Aggie record book will have a huge impact on us taking that next step. Chase really believes and cares deeply about the football program here. To have a coach of his talent join our staff makes us a better program immediately. …

“Kai has been a very loyal hard working coach for us as a GA and it gives me great pride to add him to our staff in a full time role. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our program and has a great relationship with our players.”

This will be both coaches’ first foray into full-time coaching responsibilities at the FBS level.

Cal turns to Fresno State to complete Justin Wilcox’s staff

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 14:  A member of the California Golden Bears spirit squad waves a team flag while standing next to the Bears' mascot in front of the Michigan State Spartans crowd on September 14, 2002 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.  California defeated Michigan State 46-22.  (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Getty Images)
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In late December, Fresno State hired Tony Tuioti as part of Jeff Tedford‘s first coaching staff with the Mountain West program.  Two months later, Tedford’s former Pac-12 employer has poached said staff.

By way of a press release, Cal announced that Tuioti has been hired as Justin Wilcox‘s outside linebackers coach.  Tedford served as Cal’s head coach from 2002-12; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno’s head coach for five seasons before being fired and replaced by Tedford, is now Wilcox’s defensive coordinator with the Golden Bears.

“Tony has a tremendous resume that showcases his diverse skill set and abilities both on and off the field,” Wilcox said in a statement. “Not only is he an excellent coach, but the experience he has as a director of player personnel will be a tremendous benefit to us in the structuring and organization of our recruiting operation. Finding someone with a skill set as unique and diverse as Tony’s is challenging. We are fortunate that we have found that in Tony and are looking forward to his contributions to our program.”

“Working at Cal for a coach like Justin Wilcox was an opportunity I could not pass up,” a statement from Tuioti began. “I have a tremendous feeling about the positive direction Cal is headed, and I really wanted to be a part of that and contribute all I could to a football program with tremendous potential.”

In 2016, Tuioti worked as a football staffer at Michigan.  His last on-field job at the collegiate level came at Hawaii (2012-13, linebackers coach; 2010-11, defensive line).

Georgia raising money to build Devon Gales a home

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It’s been close to a year and a half since Southern football player Devon Gales fractured his C6 vertebrae when covering a kick at Georgia. While the two sides will forever be linked, Georgia has gone above and beyond its duties to help improve his life.

In addition to regularly visiting him in the hospital and paying for his parents’ travel to Georgia, the Bulldogs will now raise funds to build him a house.

Gales received an NCAA Sportsmanship Award at the Bulldogs’ basketball game on Saturday, and it was announced that the UGAAA will launch a “Drive to Build a Dawg House” for Gales and his family.

“Anybody can just their prayer for you and send you on your way, but they didn’t. They took me as one of their kids, not just as another player, but as one of their children,” Gales said.

To contibute, text (707) 204-1707 to donate $5 toward the fund.

Mike Gundy says Sugar Bowl loss to Ole Miss wasn’t on a “level playing field”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laquon Treadwell #1 of the Mississippi Rebels celebrates scoring a 14-yard touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the fourth quarter of the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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Mike Gundy originally blamed himself for Oklahoma State’s 48-20 loss to Ole Miss at the Sugar Bowl that closed the 2015 season.

Speaking at the AFCA Convention in Nashville last month, I heard Gundy explain to thousands of fellow coaches he felt he overtrained his Cowboys in preparation to play the physically imposing Rebels. The end result backfired. As I wrote for FootballScoop:

As Oklahoma State prepared to face No. 12 Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, Gundy pushed his players harder than usual in December practices. “They’re going to knock us off the ball and it’s not going to look pretty,” he remembers thinking. That strategy backfired on him, though, as the Rebels pounded Gundy’s team 48-20. Oklahoma State was out-rushed 207-63 and averaged only 6.7 yards per pass attempt to Ole Miss’s 9.9. “We weren’t physical and we were slow,” Gundy said.

But now Gundy thinks something else may have contributed to that 28-point spanking.

As he explained to the Tulsa World‘s Bill Haisten, Gundy said he couldn’t help but think of the Sugar Bowl when he learned of the NCAA’s charges against Ole Miss.

“The first thing I thought about was (OSU’s recent experience with the NCAA),” Gundy said, “and the second thing was the Sugar Bowl and my players and what they went through.”

He continued: “We’ll never know what we could have done in the Sugar Bowl if it was a level playing field. That is the truth. I’m not sure we would have won the Sugar Bowl, but we’ll never know.”