SEC Championship - Alabama v Georgia

Tide runs & rolls over UGA, into title game


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.

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.