Nick Saban

Predictions 101 — BCS championship game


No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama
Mon., Jan. 7 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Miami, Fla. – Sun Life Stadium

This one certainly has the marquee value befitting college football’s Super Bowl.

Alabama (12-1) has put its name on 14 national championships, including two in the last three years. Notre Dame (12-0) is gunning to claim its 12th title, which would be its first since 1988.

If the Crimson Tide are able to become the first-ever BCS repeat national champ, you’ll have to go back more than 60 years to find a school that won three titles in a four year span, which was none other than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1946, 1947, 1949).

It truly is a heavyweight battle and both teams appropriately qualified for this massive clash because of their excellent defensive units.

Alabama ranks first nationally in total defense and rushing defense, second in scoring defense and sixth in passing defense.

Notre Dame has a similar résumé, ranking first in scoring defense, fourth in rushing defense, sixth in total defense and 21st in pass defense.

Both teams allow less than 11 points per game (Alabama 10.7, Notre Dame 10.3). We won’t spend any time quibbling about the difference in the opposition. Games are games and wins are wins. Both units are exceptional.

It’s on offense where we find distinct separation.

In its last game, Notre Dame kicked five field goals and scored only one touchdown in a nail-biting 22-13 victory over middle-of-the-Pac USC. Yes, the same USC that was quarterbacked by Max Wittek instead of Matt Barkley. Yes, the same USC that had a pair of Kiffins leading the underachieving offense (Lane) and defense (Monte) all season.

Alabama’s last game was quite different. It wasn’t flawless football, but when the chips were down, Bama simply bowled over Georgia. The Crimson Tide ran the football 51 times against the Bulldogs, with the majority of those carries coming when Georgia fully expected the same zone running play. Nonetheless, Alabama finished with a whopping 350 yards on the ground against a unit that reportedly features nine NFL caliber defenders.

The Crimson Tide’s ability to run between the tackles with the linemen routinely getting to the second level was amazing. Irish inside linebacker Manti Te’o and his cohorts will have their hands full, getting off blocks and trying to bring down Alabama’s one-two punch of warrior running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

We respect the job that the Irish have done against the run, allowing only two rushing touchdowns this season, but we ain’t talking Wake Forest here. Alabama has scored 35 rushing touchdowns and the Tide won’t be denied.

Notre Dame will be forced to stack the box to slow the Tide’s roll on the ground, but that’s dangerous business for a suspect secondary. At any moment, Alabama freshman wideout Amari Cooper can blow the top off your defense on the outside. Just ask Georgia.

The Irish are solid and balanced on offense, but not good enough to take advantage of Alabama’s few frailties.

Teams have been able to pass against the Tide, but that’s after establishing a running game. We don’t think the Irish will be able to do that and will end up one-dimensional. If that’s the case, we have little confidence that redshirt freshman Everett Golson will be able to a do a “Johnny Football” on the Tide.

Nick Saban’s defense has the size and strength to match up well with Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and the athleticism on the outside to contain Golson.

Irish fans will contend that the Tide looked vulnerable in the SEC title game and that they would have lost if Georgia could have gotten another snap off.

This is true, but that fact actually works against the Irish. The Tide know that they didn’t play their best game against the Bulldogs. They don’t need Saban to remind them of that … but he will and there will be lots of fine tuning going on in Tuscaloosa.

The Irish beat representatives from five BCS conferences en route to 12-0, but not anybody from THE BCS conference. Until now. They’ll meet their match and then some.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 9 1/2

The pick: Alabama 24-13

Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.

Auburn running all over and around Arkansas, 28-0

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 22: A young fan of the Auburn Tigers cheers as the team takes the field before the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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It took one play for Auburn to put some points on the scoreboard, and the Tigers have yet to look back on Arkansas. Auburn holds a decisive 28-0 lead on the Razorbacks at the half. Auburn has run for 268 yards to just 26 yards on the ground by Arkansas.

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He was helped off the field and replaced with redshirt freshman Ty Storey. Allen did return to the game.

Eli Stove (85 yards) took off for a 78-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play Auburn got to run after Arkansas was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession. Auburn’s second touchdown drive took a little longer (10-plays, 91 yards). Kamryn Petway (117 yards) finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. Arkansas fumbled away the ensuing possession after just three plays, and Auburn capitalized with a Stanton Truitt touchdown run from 20 yards out.

It’s just been a mess of a first half by Arkansas, and the bad news is there is a second half to play.

No. 1 Alabama roars back in the second half to beat No. 6 Texas A&M

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 22:  Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to pass against the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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No. 1 Alabama hit Texas A&M in the mouth and the sixth-ranked Aggies responded to take a second half lead on Saturday. Then Alabama hit them again.

And again. And again. And probably another time for good measure.

The Crimson Tide stormed back from a one point second half deficit to throttle yet another top 25 opponent on Saturday, reaffirming their status as the team to beat for the national title with an impressive 33-14 home win.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts started off a little slow and had a handful of freshman mistakes (two picks, one on a Hail Mary) but turned things up after halftime to finish with 166 yards passing and two touchdowns while rushing for another 91 yards and a score. Tight end O.J. Howard became a big part of the Tide’s aerial attack and wound up with a team-leading 70 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Damien Harris chipped in with 128 yards on the ground with an impressive 7.5 yards a carry.

Texas A&M signal-caller Trevor Knight couldn’t quite get his second straight win over Alabama, but did throw for two touchdowns to temporarily stun Bryant Denny Stadium with a brief 14-13 Aggies lead coming out of the locker room at halftime.

Defensive end Jonathan Allen completely turned the game around just before the end of the third quarter however when he scooped and scored on a 30 yard fumble return to put Alabama up by two scores. It was the future first rounder’s second time crossing the goal line this season, the ninth defensive touchdown of the year for the Tide and the 10th straight game in which the team has scored a non-offensive touchdown.

If there was one negative for Alabama to emerge from the contest in the second half it was that safety Eddie Jackson had to be carted off early in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury. He was hurt on a punt return that later setup another touchdown and comes at the one spot where the Tide, all things being relative, is a little thin at.

It probably won’t mean much in the long run given how good Alabama looked down the stretch in winning their 20th straight game. They’ll head into their bye week undefeated and looking to get a little rest before traveling to Baton Rouge to play rival LSU. Texas A&M probably won’t drop too much in the polls with their first loss of the season and, while they are a long shot to win the SEC West, remain in line to make it to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Steve Addazio wants ACC to review sideline scuffle in BC-‘Cuse game

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey (2) rushes through the Boston College defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
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The Syracuse-Boston College game may have come to an end, but the head coach from one side doesn’t want the scrutiny to do the same.

In the first quarter, Orange quarterback Eric Dungey threw an interception to the Eagles’ William Harris and ultimately tackled Harris on the visiting team’s sidelines.  Or, more specifically, Dungey slammed Harris to the ground and, eventually, pushed another BC player into some equipment.  That led to a bit of a brief brouhaha that was ultimately defused.

Reportedly, an unidentified Syracuse staffer threw Harris to the ground during the melee. Additionally, BC head coach Steve Addazio alleged that a punch was thrown for good measure.

As a result, Addazio is asking that the ACC review video of the incident to determine what if anything untoward took place.

“I think there’s some stuff on the video that will need to be addressed on that play,” Addazio said according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. “Some stuff went down over there that I could see myself.

“Let’s let the proper people take a look at it and make the proper decision.”

As for the play itself, Dungey received a personal foul while both teams were issued unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.  Oh, and the Orange won the game 28-20.

No. 12 West Virginia remains undefeated with 34-10 victory over TCU

MORGANTOWN, WV - OCTOBER 22:  Daikiel Shorts #6 celebrates his touchdown with Ka'Raun White #2 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Mountaineer Field on October 22, 2016 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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Skyler Howard threw four touchdowns to help lead No. 12 West Virginia (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) to a 34-10 victory over TCU (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) in Morgantown on Saturday. The win keeps the Mountaineers perfect on the season and continues to keep them atop the Big 12 standings with some key games still to be played.

West Virginia had a balanced attack on offense against the Horned Frogs. In addition to Howard tossing four touchdowns and passing for 231 yards in the win, running back Rushel Shell rushed for 117 yards. The defense (and special teams) came to play as well, forcing three TCU turnovers, including on the opening kickoff of the game to setup a quick touchdown. It was a rough start for visiting TCU, but they battled back before the game got out of reach in the second half. West Virginia pitched a shutout in the second half, while tacking on 13 points to pull away. TCU was able to convert just one of nine third downs and Kenny Hill averaged just 4.9 yards per pass attempt.

Is there any slowing West Virginia down? Maybe, but when? West Virginia takes their undefeated record on the road next week with a visit to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State. Then comes a home game against Kansas and a road game at Texas. All three are winnable, with only Oklahoma State expected to be the toughest challenge out of that bunch. The key still looks to be the final three games of the season, with home games against Oklahoma and Baylor with a road trip to Iowa State in between.

The Big 12 should be within reach, but could a playoff spot be in sight for West Virginia? The Mountaineers continue to climb their way up the rankings and fly under the radar. If the wins keep coming, that will not be the case for much longer.

TCU will return home next week to try and bounce back when they host Texas Tech.