McCarron

Alabama-Notre Dame: some storylines

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If you were a Hollywood script writer looking to pitch a movie based on a college football championship being played in a land far, far away, it would be hard to come up with a better pair of protagonists than Alabama and Notre Dame.

For any director, it’s a cinematic smörgåsbord replete with plotlines as far as the stomach can see.  The North vs. the South on a gridiron battlefield.  Two of the winningest programs in FBS history, with the Irish tied for second all-time with Texas and the Tide seventh.  Mystique for miles, from Knute to Bear, from the Gipper to Broadway Joe before the bright lights and big city, from 14 claimed national championships for the Tuscaloosa school to 11 claimed by the one from South Bend.

And, it just so happens, the two best teams after the dust had settled and the curtain had fallen on the 2012 regular season.

Simply put, it’s already the most highly anticipated title game of the BCS era… and we’re still weeks away from the Jan. 7 showdown in Miami.  Suffice to say, myriad words will be dumped onto a computer screen to feed the hype machine over the next five weeks, with storylines far surpassing even the schools’ healthy win totals.  Here are but a few of those that may or may not have an impact on which team hoists the crystal into the South Beach sky at game’s end.

Are you experienced?
In a lot of ways, Alabama and Notre Dame are as evenly matched as any two teams that have faced each other on this stage recently.  One area where the Tide has a decided and lopsided advantage?  Big-game experience.  The No. 2 Tide (12-1) will be gunning for an unprecedented third BCS title in four years while the Irish’s biggest game under Brian Kelly prior to this year was, what, the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State after last season?  From handling the weeks-long layoff to dealing with the media circus to a 60-minute game of this magnitude and carrying such immense ramifications, Nick Saban has been there, done that while Kelly is just getting there and has never done that.

Waking the slumbering echoes
In the 14-year history of the BCS, No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) has appeared in just three of the marquee bowl games, with the last coming after the 2006 regular season.  Their national championship drought stretches back even further; the last time the Irish finished a season on top, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, a gallon of gas would set you back $1.08 and Lou Holtz was shtomping acrosh the Irish shidelines.  Since then, “Flounder Like an Irrelevant Program Today” has marked the once-proud program’s trudge through more than two decades of mediocrity.  Following a 16-win run to end the last three years of the Charlie Weis era, though, the tide, so to speak, began to turn for the Irish.  In the two years after Kelly was hired in December of 2009, the Irish posted back-to-back eight-win seasons.  In the third year under Kelly — the same year four other Irish coaches won their first/only national championships at the school, incidentally — the Irish have made a resounding move back onto the national stage.  And relevance in the way that matters most.

Exorcising historical ghosts
While they’ve met but a handful of times through the years, Notre Dame has had Alabama’s number when they have taken the field.  In six meetings, the Irish own a decided 5-1 advantage.  Included in that total?  A perfect 4-0 record against Tide teams coached by the legendary Bear Bryant.  The two teams first met in 1973, with the last coming in 1987.  The first two meetings came in the Sugar and Orange Bowls in back-to-back years, with the Irish winning both games by a combined three points over Tide teams that were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, at the time.  Alabama’s only win came during the 1986 regular season, a 28-10 decision in Birmingham.  Of course, the last time the two teams met with this much on the line, Saban was a graduate assistant at his alma mater Kent State while Kelly had yet to enter high school, so the historical angle will be gummed to death in the coming weeks due to lack of teeth.

Chasing the Bear
More than three decades after his death, there’s still nothing that epitomizes and encapsulates the Alabama football program more than Paul William Bryant.  In his 25 years as the Tide’s head coach, the Bear won a school-record 232 games and staked his claim to five* national titles.  While Saban can inch up on but never truly surpass Coach Bryant in the hearts and minds of Tuscaloosans, he can take a step closer to the coaching immortal’s accomplishments; with a win over Notre Dame, Saban would have four national championships on his résumé — one at LSU, three in the Bear’s den.

(*I don’t acknowledge 1973, much like the coaches didn’t acknowledge the postseason)

Record eyeballs glued to boob tube?
The highest-rated game in BCS history was the USC-Texas Rose Bowl affair following the 2005 season, which drew a 21.7 Nielsen rating.  Notre Dame drew a 10.3 rating for its “meaningless” regular season game against USC this year that was roughly half of that record, and equal to the 2012 SEC title game.  Alabama plus Notre Dame plus five weeks of hype?  Records will be shattered.

AP tiebreaker
Depending on which way the polling winds blow, and if it’s favorable in their direction, Alabama claims (I think) 14 national championships.  Notre Dame claims 11, with both teams using various polls to dignify their historical national championship status.  The one certainty in all of the title claiming?  There are two teams that have each won a record eight Associated Press titles — Alabama and Notre Dame, of course.  Jan. 7 in Miami, as it turns out, will turn into a tiebreaker for the ages that no one ever anticipated.

Degenerates speak
In the week leading up to the SEC championship game, Alabama had been listed as a 9.5 favorite over Notre Dame should the two teams ultimately meet in the BCS title game.  With the game officially set?  The odds range from 8.5 to 10, depending on the book.  Notre Dame may be undefeated, but they’ll go into the title game as decided underdogs in the eyes of both the sports books in general and the betting/viewing public in particular.

Urban Meyer, on LSU speculation: ‘I’m going to be the coach at Ohio State’

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes shouts on the sidelines against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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A report surfaced Monday that, in its search for a replacement for the deposed Les Miles, LSU was set to gauge the interest of a handful of big-name head coaches, among them Ohio State’s Urban Meyer.

With the opening of Big Ten play on tap for this weekend, the Buckeyes head coach wasted little time in shooting down the speculation connecting him to the Bayou Bengals.

“No, I’ve not been contacted,” Meyer said of LSU during the Big Ten’s weekly teleconference. “And I’m going to be the coach at Ohio State.”

Meyer is in his fifth season as the head coach at OSU, guiding the Buckeyes to a 53-4 mark in that span.  For perspective, the Tigers have lost four of their last eight games, paving the way for unceremonious ouster and Meyer’s name being mentioned in connection to the opening.

Alabama’s Nick Saban was also mentioned as a coach who LSU would gauge his interest in the job.

Wazzu’s Shalom Luani won’t face charges stemming from assault

PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 17:  Shalom Luani #18 of the Washington State Cougars carries the ball to a touchdown on an interception return against the Oregon State Beavers in the fourth quarter at Martin Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.  Washington State defeated Oregon State 52-31.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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After a very public back and forth between the police and university, Washington State has some (somewhat) positive off-field news on which to celebrate.

Monday, Whitman County (WA) prosecutor Denis Tracy announced that he will not file charges against Cougars safety Shalom Luani in connection to a fight outside of a Pullman Domino’s Pizza shop.  Video evidence indicated that it was Luani who broke a man’s nose with a punch; however, the prosecutor stated that a jury would likely conclude that Luani, who claimed he was ambushed by six males who pushed him from inside the pizza shop outside and sustained a concussion in the scuffle, had acted in self-defense.

From Tracy’s letter to the alleged victim:

[I]n order to prove that a criminal assault happened, the prosecutor must not only prove that the suspect hit someone, but the prosecutor must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was not acting in self defense.”

“In this case, it is my view that no reasonable jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Luani was not acting in self defense. …

“Since I cannot prove that Mr. Luani was not acting in self-defense. I cannot prove that he committed a criminal assault.

WSU athletic director Bill Moos, who along with the university’s president met with the chief of the Pullman Police Department earlier this month, issued a statement expressing his happiness over the prosecutor’s decision.

We are pleased that the prosecuting attorney’s office came to the same conclusion as we did regarding this case. While not always afforded the opportunity, I believe this illustrates the stance we have taken from the beginning which is to handle such matters internally, not speak in great detail, until the legal process has played out. Though we choose to reserve comment on such instances, we continue to cooperate with law enforcement, and assume innocent until proven guilty. We will not engage in public debate, rather, will let the legal process run its course, and as best we can gain an understanding of all the facts, without publicly acknowledging guilt or innocence prematurely. We will continue to educate our student-athletes on representing our fine university is a positive manner and also emphasize they remove themselves from situations that have the potential to impact them and the university negatively.

Luani started all 13 games for the Cougars last season after transferring from the junior college ranks, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.  This season, he leads the team with two interceptions.

Bovada taps Houston’s Tom Herman as favorite to replace Les Miles at LSU

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Tom Herman of the Houston Cougars leads his team onto the field before the game with Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, wagering establishments are beginning to roll out the odds on the next head coach down on the bayou.  Somewhat surprisingly, however, this particular house doesn’t include the current sideline bosses at Alabama and Ohio State.

According to odds released by Bovada.lv earlier this afternoon, Houston’s Tom Herman, at 5/4, is the overwhelming favorite to replace Les Miles as LSU’s head coach.  Behind Herman is former LSU assistant and current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher at 3/1.

Not unexpectedly, both Herman and Fisher denied yesterday that they have been contacted by LSU about the opening.  Left unsaid, however, is whether their respective agents have been in contact with the school or those connected to the programs.

It was reported earlier this month that language will be inserted into Herman’s contract that will stipulate the coach is to receive a $5 million bonus if the Cougars move from the AAC to one of the Power Five conferences.  That could be a moot point, however, if a new report that Oklahoma, and thus the Big 12 are cooling on expanding beyond its current 10-team configuration.

Herman is set to make $3 million annually on a new contract agreed to last November.  LSU, though, could nearly double that salary if Herman is their target, and UH likely couldn’t — or wouldn’t — match it.

Interim Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron is given a fighting chance to landing the job permanently as the wagering website has given the line coach 9/1 odds at keeping the position beyond this year.  Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is behind Orgeron at 12/1.

In addition to Herman, Fisher, Orgeron and Kiffin, Bovada also included North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (4/1), USF’s Willie Taggart (6/1), TCU’s Gary Patterson (15/1), former Oregon and current San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly (15/1), Louisville’s Bobby Petrino (18/1) and former Baylor head coach Art Briles (28/1) in their initial set of odds.

Nebraska Cornhusker LB, on backlash after national anthem kneel: ‘we deserved to be lynched or shot just like other black people’

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Wide receiver Tanner Gentry #4 of the Wyoming Cowboys reaches for a pass as linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey #15 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers defends at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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Protests were front and center at college football games across the national landscape this past weekend, and so was the backlash.

Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, along with freshmen teammates Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal, knelt in protest during the playing of the national anthem Saturday night prior to the game against Northwestern. According to Rose-Ivey in a statement he read during player media availability Monday and posted on his Twitter account, he and his teammates were dealt racially-charged criticism from “fans” on social media after the display.

“Some believe DaiShon, Mohamed and myself should be kicked off the team or suspended, while some said we deserved to be lynched or shot just like the other black people who have died recently,” Rose-Ivey stated during the oral portion of his impassioned message. “Others believe we should be hung before the anthem before the next game. These are actual statements we receive from fans. …

“We did it understanding the implications of these actions, but what we didn’t expect was the enormous amount of hateful, racially motivated comments we received from friends, peers, fans and members of the media about the method of protest.”

According to Barry, however, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, especially as it pertains to ‘Husker fans.

Like 15 positives to the negative,” Barry said. “Our fans, they agree with it, they see the injustice, and for the most part they support us.

“The biggest thing isn’t that they agree or disagree with why we did, it’s ‘oh, why you did during the national anthem?’ It’s the perfect time to let it be known. What’s another time when people would actually talk about it? If we did it during practice, no one would talk about it. If it was any other particular moment — but the national anthem, that glorifies America and all that, it’s the perfect time.”

Nebraska’s governor, Pete Ricketts, had a different opinion of the protest. A decidedly different opinion.

“Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said. “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”