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.

ACC sees revenues spike nearly $100 million in 2014-15

John Swofford
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Here’s how wacko, bonkers, crazy college sports has gotten in the past half-decade, and more specifically the money taken in by the SEC and Big Ten: the ACC saw its revenue jump by nearly $100 million in 2014-15 — and they’re worried about falling behind.

Whereas a decade ago simply making $100 million as a conference would’ve been cause for a clicking of heels in Greensboro, the ACC’s jump from $302.3 million in 2013-14 to $403.1 million in 2014-15, according to tax documents obtained by USA Today, is met by concern of just how in the heck they’re going to match the SEC’s $527.4 million and the Big Ten’s $448.8 million without what those two leagues have — a TV network.

The ACC has seen revenues jump nearly $170 million in two years, and the 2014-15 jump was thanks in large part to a $30 million exit fee played by Maryland in leaving for the Big Ten.

Commissioner John Swofford saw his pay grow along with his conference’s, from $2.1 million and change to just under $2.7 million.

The ACC was the final Power 5 to release its financials for the 2014-15 fiscal year, and with all five out we now have a full picture of how the schools stack up on a per school basis (full shares only):

  1. SEC: $32.6 million*
  2. Big Ten: $32.4 million
  3. ACC: $25.8 million*
  4. Pac-12: $25.1 million
  5. Big 12: $23.4 million^

*  – Splitting difference between highest and lowest distributions, as listed by USA Today
^ – Does not include third-tier payments such as Longhorn Network

Michigan spent nearly $350,000 on spring break trip to IMG Academy

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during warm-ups before the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on October 31, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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When Jim Harbaugh goes on vacation, he does it big.

The world’s most notable khaki pants aficionado went to France last summer and, as was well-publicized at the time, brought the entire Michigan roster to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for a spring break football trip.

According to the Detroit News, that trip cost Michigan’s football program nearly $350,000.

That $348,553 figure represents nearly 10 percent of the entire athletics budget at Coppin State, according to the most recent figures on record from USA Today, the lowest in Division I.

Michigan, meanwhile, spent over $151 million on athletics — and that figure will only go up considering the month-long satellite camp tour Harbaugh has planned for his staff in June.

Imposter used alias of Vols football player for Snapchat extortion scheme

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 02:  Cameron Sutton #23 of the Tennessee Volunteers runs past Dalton Ferguson #76 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field on January 2, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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A Sweetwater, Tenn., man is accused of using the likeness of Tennessee football player Cameron Sutton to run an extortion scheme over Snapchat.

According to WBIR in Knoxville, federal authorities have charged 22-year-old Brandon Shanahan with intent to extort money and other things from a woman using the alias “Camsutton2323.”

Sutton, a senior defensive back from Jonesboro, Ga., wears number 23.

Case documents indicate the woman sent the person she thought was a Volunteers cornerback nude photos through the messaging app. The next day, authorities say, Shanahan threatened to post the photos online unless she sent more. Investigators believe Shanahan used the scheme to contact other women as well.

If convicted of criminal impersonation, Shanahan faces up to two years in prison.

Proposed Big 12 rule change would give Baker Mayfield extra year of eligibility at Oklahoma

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5:  Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a touchdown against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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A proposed rule change up for vote at the Big 12’s faculty athletics representatives meetings could have a wide effect on the college football season in 2017.

As reported by Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News, the Big 12 will vote on a rule that would allow non-recruited walk-ons — like Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield — to transfer within the conference without penalty.

Mayfield walked on to Texas Tech’s roster in 2013 and immediately won the starting job as a true freshman. The combination of injuries and bad blood between he and Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury led Mayfield to transfer to Oklahoma, where he also walked on. (Sooners head coach Bob Stoops famously didn’t meet Mayfield until he’d already joined his roster.) Mayfield and his father James exhausted the appeals process both inside the Big 12 and nationally through the NCAA to no avail.

Because of that, Mayfield, a 3,700-yard passer for the 2015 Big 12 champions and College Football Playoff semifinalists in 2015, will be a senior in 2016 at Oklahoma — but could transfer again to another school and play outside the Big 12 in 2017. Fear of that potential embarrassment is what spurred this proposal to next week’s docket.

“I think we all ought to be a little bit thoughtful about it,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Morning News. “Absent Baker Mayfield getting relief, he’ll have a year of eligibility left and won’t be able to use it in our conference but instead would go someplace else and use it. That might not be in anybody’s best interest.”

Bowlsby and OU athletics director Joe Castiglione stressed the rule change would be bigger than just one quarterback, but, let’s be honest: if Mayfield was still a Red Raider, this issue would be on exactly no one’s radar.

And now, thanks to college sports’ goofy governance system, a group of Big 12 faculty chaired by Kansas chemical and petroleum engineering professor Susan Stagg-Williams will vote on Wednesday at campus headquarters in suburban Dallas on a rule that will have wide-sweeping impact on college football next year.

Another interesting angle to this is that, no matter how the votes tally, the result will be bittersweet for the Sooners. Either Oklahoma sees the nation’s No. 3 most efficient passer from 2015 receives the opportunity to play elsewhere in 2017, or Kyler Murray sits on the bench one year longer than anticipated. And Oklahoma can ask their former Big 12 bunkmates at Texas A&M how the Murray camp will probably handle that.