Nick Saban

Predictions 101 — BCS championship game

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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.

Oklahoma could be down two defensive starters vs. TCU

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 19: Running back Zack Langer #24 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane evades defensive end Matt Dimon #94 of the Oklahoma Sooners September 19, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Tulsa 52-38.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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After stumbling to a 1-3 start to the season, Oklahoma could be looking at a fresh start as they kick off Big 12 play this weekend.  Unfortunately for the Sooners, at least defensively, they’ll do so at less than full strength defensively.

Wednesday, it was confirmed that, despite coming off a bye weekend, linebacker Tay Evans and defensive end Matt Dimon (pictured, left) will not play in Saturday’s game against TCU.  Both will be sidelined with unspecified injuries.

Evans was injured in the second quarter of the Week 3 loss to Ohio State and didn’t return.  Dimon didn’t play at all in the second half of that game because of his unspecified injury.

Evans has started all three games of the season thus far for the Sooners.  Dimon started the opener against Houston and the OSU game, missing the Louisiana-Monroe game sandwiched in between.

It’s not all negative news on that side of the ball as all signs are pointing to defensive tackle Matt Romar is back at practice and on track to play against TCU.  Romar, a key part of OU’s line rotation who started 12 games last season, overcame a concussion sustained during summer camp to play the first two games of the season.  He didn’t see the field against the Buckeyes because of, you guessed it, an undisclosed injury.

Gophers’ leading sacker ruled out of game vs. Nittany Lions

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 01: Tai'yon Devers #92 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers forces a fumble on Darell Garretson #10 of the Oregon State Beavers in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Gophers recovered the fumble setting up a touchdown.(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
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With injuries decimating its own linebacking corps, Penn State may have caught a break on the other side of the ball.

With the Week 5 game against Minnesota still three days away, the Gophers have already announced that Tai’yon Devers has been ruled out against the Nittany Lions.  Devers is dealing with an ankle injury that will sideline the freshman through at least this coming Saturday.

The defensive end currently leads the Gophers in sacks with three, including one in last week’s game against Colorado State.  That one proved to be an absolute smothering of the Rams’ unfortunate quarterback.

In addition to the sacks, Devers also leads the Gophers with three forced fumbles in three games.  According to head coach Tracy Claeys, Dever being more aware of his on-field surroundings could’ve allowed him to add to those totals this weekend.

From the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:

The Rams tried to cut Devers, who has wreaked havoc off the edge.

“He has to learn to protect himself,” Claeys said. “He’s going to see that a little more.”

Ex-LSU AD repeats claim Les Miles turned down Michigan, more money in 2011

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 03:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers leads the team on to the field at Tiger Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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One of the biggest open secrets in all of college football has been confirmed (?) by a person who purportedly had a front-row seat to the spectacle.

Shortly after Rich Rodriguez was fired following the 2010 season, Michigan put on the full-court press to land Les Miles as his replacement.  It was known at the time that then-UM athletic director David Brandon and other school officials flew down to Baton Rouge to meet with Miles, who played his football for the Wolverines in the mid-seventies and was an assistant at his alma mater a decade later.

The open secret many still swear by?  That on that trip south Brandon had offered the job, along with a significant raise to what he was making at LSU, to Miles, who ultimately decided to turn it down and stay with the Tigers.

During a radio interview Wednesday, Skip Bertman, LSU athletic director from 2001-2008, confirmed that version of events

“Les Miles turned that job down for more money at Michigan. He turned it down,” Bertman told the ESPN Radio affiliate in Baton Rouge. “He would never say that because he’s a very humble guy. But I was there; he turned it down.”

Renowned Michigan historian John Bacon, however, disputes not only the 2011 claim, but the 2007 claim by Kirk Herbstreit and one made in 2014 as well.

The football program hired Rodriguez in 2007 and Brady Hoke in 2011, then stuck with Hoke through a rough 2014 season that had Miles-to-Ann Arbor speculation flying yet again. Ultimately, though, the university finally landed its Michigan Man in Jim Harbaugh.  I’m thinking that’s working out just fine for the program, regardless of how exactly things transpired with Miles in the past.

Big Ten to use commemorative coin to honor Sam Foltz, Mike Sandler

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Tributes to Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler have seemingly been a weekly occurrence across college football the first four weeks of the season, and the players’ conference will get on board in Week 5.

A commemorative coin will be used to honor both Foltz and Sadler at all seven Big Ten games this weekend, the league announced Wednesday.  As this is the first full weekend of conference action, the coins, with Foltz on one side and Sadler on the other, will be used for the coin flip prior to each league matchup.

The Cornhuskers have decided to use the coins for the remainder of the season.

Folks and Sadler were killed in a July car accident on their way home from a kick camp in Wisconsin. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the wreck, but is kicking this season for the Tigers and honoring both by wearing special cleats.

Below are the coins that will be used, courtesy of the Big Ten:

sam-foltz

mike-sadler