SEC Championship - Alabama v Georgia

2012 SEC title game: the greatest in conference history?

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For all the annual pomp and circumstance surrounding the SEC championship game, more times than not the preeminent college football conference’s showcase has turned into an unabashed rout.

In the 20 such games played prior to this season, 16 of them were decided by 10 points or more.  More than half (11) saw the winning team romp by more than two touchdowns, with three of those devolving into 30-plus-point bloodbaths.  Just two had been decided by six points or less, and those were back in the pre-BCS days of 1994 and 1997.

The former game — Florida’s one-point win over unbeaten Alabama — and the latter — one that saw a Peyton Manning-led-Tennessee squad overcome a 20-10 deficit on Auburn en route to its one-point win — have widely been considered the greatest in the history of the conference, as has the 2008 matchup of No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida.  And then along came the 2012 edition of what’s turned into a BCS title-game play-in, one that can stand firmly alongside, if not above, the others in the conference annals.

In Alabama’s 32-28 win over Georgia, Saturday night’s instant classic had something none of the aforementioned could claim: a combination of what made all three of those games classics in their own right.

Lofty rankings for both teams as in 2008?  Check, with the Tide clocking in at No. 2 and Georgia at No. 3.  A double-digit third-quarter deficit overcome by the winning team as in 1997?  Check, with the Tide digging its way out of an 11-point hole.  A game-winning drive in the latter half of the fourth quarter?  Check, with AJ McCarron reprising the role made famous by Danny Wuerffel.

And the stakes for this year’s game?  Yes, ’97 Tennessee and ’94 Alabama both had titles within their grasp, but only ’08 Alabama-Florida and ’12 Alabama-Georgia had a shot at national championship on the line for both teams involved.

Mix in some late-game controversy… momentum swings that tested the hearts and stomachs of the faithful on both sides… one head coach attempting to shake the big-game gorilla off his back while the other looked to continue a seemingly inexorable march toward coaching immortality… add all of that together and add a splash of the raw emotion on display from both sides at game’s end, and you have a rock-solid case for 2012 stacking up against any other year.

Five yards and four points separating the two teams after 60 minutes of football, with a spot in the BCS title game at stake?  Case closed.

While a football game’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and knowing full well the immediacy of sporting moments ofttimes transcend the fading memories of games gone by, the 2012 SEC title showdown can lay its head on the pillow this morning armed with the knowledge that it was indeed one of the greatest of all-time.  And the greatest ever in my little corner of the college football world.

Alabama to hires Arizona AD Greg Byrne for same position

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 19: Athletic Director Greg Byrne of the Arizona Wildcats looks on during the second half of the college football game against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Arizona Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
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Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be the most powerful person within the Alabama sports department, but even he has a boss.  Now, he will have a new boss.

Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle is stepping down into retirement from his current position, although he will remain active in the university as a special assistant to university president Stuart Bell. Battle has been fighting through health issues and completed treatment for cancer last summer. His vacant spot in the athletics department will be filled by Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne. A formal announcement has not been made as of yet, but multiple reports have confirmed the pending Byrne hiring. (UPDATE: Alabama has since formally announced the hiring of Byrne)

”Bill has done a tremendous job as director of athletics, and has accomplished so much during his career,” Bell said, according to the Associated Press. ”His business expertise, coupled with his coaching experience and his strong understanding of the role an athletic department has in the daily fabric of a university, has allowed us to achieve the great successes we have enjoyed during his tenure. We are blessed to have the continued benefit of his counsel.”

The hiring of Byrne takes Alabama outside its own foundation to bring in an outsider to lead the sports department. Byrne is an Idaho native who has worked in an administrative role in two SEC schools, so he will be familiar with the landscape the conference has to offer. Byrne was the athletics director of Mississippi State from 2008 through 2010 before moving to Arizona for the past six years. At Mississippi State, Byrne hired football coach Dan Mullen. Byrne also held an associate AD role at Kentucky, where he directed development and fundraising efforts for the Wildcats.

Notre Dame OL Quenton Nelson announces return to school

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It’s not yet Signing Day, but Notre Dame has already secured a major commitment for what Brian Kelly hopes is a major bounce-back 2017 season.

Offensive lineman Quenton Nelson announced Sunday he is returning for his senior season. “Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out,” Nelson wrote in an Instagram post. “I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson, who hails from “Westeros, GOT,” according to his Twitter bio, is a two-year starter at guard for the Irish. Notre Dame finished tied for 62nd nationally in yards per carry this season, but ranked eighth in that same metric a year ago en route to earning a finalist not for the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the nation’s best offensive line unit — and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.

Sonny Dykes reportedly joins TCU staff

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Sonny Dykes of the California Golden Bears looks on during warm ups prior to the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Former California head coach Sonny Dykes is set to join TCU’s staff in a to-be-determined role, multiple outlets reported Sunday evening. Jeremy Clark of TCU’s 247 site broke the news.

Dykes, of course, was the head coach of the Golden Bears through last Sunday, when the school abruptly fired him. He was 19-30 in four seasons with Cal.

With Doug Meacham off to Kansas and Sonny Cumbie running the show for the Horned Frogs’ offense, Dykes is a natural fit to slide in and assist Cumbie. Dykes was an offensive assistant of Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2000-06, and Cumbie played for the Red Raiders as a quarterback from 2000-04. Sharing the same first name can’t hurt, either.

 

Memphis promotes Darrell Dickey to offensive coordinator

OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 01: Riley Ferguson #4 of the Memphis Tigers throws the ball during the first half of a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Chip Long is off to call plays at Notre Dame, and now Tigers head coach Mike Norvell has moved his remaining staff up a line.

The Tigers announced Sunday associate head coach/running backs coach Darrell Dickey has been bumped to offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham, who spent last season as a graduate assistant working with the quarterbacks, is now the full-time quarterbacks coach, and offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield has added a run game coordinator title.

“The interest generated by our opening was remarkable,” Norvell saida. “But after the process of visiting with a number of coaches and coordinators from a variety of schools and just about every conference across college football, I feel the best option to continue our high standard of offensive success is to promote from within our staff. Our players have done a great job in adjusting to the offensive system we brought here this past season, and I believe next season, we have a chance to build off what we did as a unit.  With these changes, as well as Coach (wide receivers coach David) Johnson and myself, I feel like we will continue to have one of the top offensive staffs in the country.”

Dickey has spent the last five seasons on staff at Memphis, serving as offensive coordinator and running backs coach for Justin Fuente before he left for Virginia Tech. Dickey is best known for his run of four consecutive Sun Belt championships from 2001-04 as the head coach at North Texas.

“Coach Dickey brings a wealth of experience coordinating explosive offensive units and I believe that with the offensive staff we have in place, the brightest days ahead for this Memphis Tigers’ offense. Darrell does a tremendous job of leading men and developing relationships not only with players, but also with everyone associated with our program. He has done an outstanding job over the last five years here in Memphis developing a running backs group that I believe is one of the most dynamic in the country.”

Memphis finished the 2016 season ranked 33rd nationally in yards per play and tied for 15th in scoring despite losing first-round pick Paxton Lynch at quarterback.