Speculation again connects Nick Saban to the Browns

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Unfortunately for an Alabama football team preparing for what could be a third BCS championship in four years, it’s back.

The “it” in the latest rumor mill churning is speculation connecting Alabama head coach Nick Saban to a return to the NFL in general and to the Cleveland Browns specifically.  In the months since confirmation surfaced in August that Jimmy Haslam was purchasing the Browns, the speculative thought process was the new owner would bring in Joe Banner as his new team president — he did — who would in turn hire Mike Lombardi as his new general manager — he might — who would in turn at least attempt to bring his old Cleveland buddy Saban in as head coach.

That was the under-the-surface speculation, anyway.  Which the Boston Globe decided Sunday to bring to the surface with some fire to go along with the smoke.

In the Globe‘s report that focuses mainly on a potential Lombardi return to football management, and citing two unnamed NFL sources, Greg Bedard writes that “Saban has let it be known that if he returns to the NFL… it would likely be with Lombardi playing Pioli to his Belichick.”  First and foremost, Saban has let it be known that he’d consider a return to the NFL, where he failed miserably in his only stint with the Miami Dolphins?  The fact that a move back to the NFL would be part of Saban’s thought process as he’s preparing for a fourth BCS title-game appearance stretches the bounds of reason to the point of breakage.

Secondly, this “situation” is dot-connecting at its best.

Saban, a defensive back at Kent State in his collegiate playing days, was part of the ill-fated early-90’s Browns organization that included Lombardi, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick.  The latter two famously reunited in New England, with Pioli serving as “general manager” while Belichick held final say over personnel decisions during the Patriots’ run of Super Bowl success.  With Lombardi reportedly in play as the future GM in Cleveland, and with Banner preferring a head coach having final say on personnel, dangling the NFL/Browns/Lombardi/personnel carrot in front of Saban could be enough to prompt the best coach in the best situation at the FBS level to “take the plunge again,” Bedard reports.

Why Saban, who was 15-17 with the Dolphins before leaving for Tuscaloosa — after he wasn’t — would “let it be known” that he’s open to a departure back to the big-boy league is unclear.  It certainly wouldn’t be money; at nearly $5.5 million annually, Saban is the highest-paid coach in college football.  A chance at redeeming his only coaching failure at any level?  Perhaps, although there’s clearly no love lost between Saban and the next level.

What is crystal clear, though, is how Saban’s better half views any type of speculation that has her husband headed somewhere other than Tuscaloosa.

“To answer your question [of her Saban having any interest in rebuilding another college program or returning to the NFL] and get right to the point, no. We’re very comfortable here. We love it here. It’s a great fit for our family. It’s a good fit for me. As far as we’re concerned, this is where we’ll retire someday.

“As far as jobs go, this is it for us. I don’t mean to be presumptuous. I would have to talk this over with Nick, but as far as I’m concerned, this is it.”

Those were the comments made by Terry Saban, the coach’s wife, during a radio interview two days before the Globe‘s report reared its head.  “This is it” has a very definitive finality to it; to be fair, so did “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach” two weeks before he was.

Because of that distant past, Saban could in the near future find himself in damned if he does, damned if doesn’t territory if the Globe‘s report and other speculation continues to grow legs.  Damned if he unequivocally denies the Browns speculation (PAWWWLLL, IT’S 2006 AGAIN!!! ROLLTIDE!!!), and damned if he doesn’t (PAWWWLLL, SILENCE IS THE FIRST ACT OF A TRAITOR!!! ROLLTIDE!!!).

All the while preparing his Alabama team for an unprecedented three titles in a four-year span in the BCS era.  “Troll Tide” indeed.

Heat ratcheted up on Butch Jones as Tennessee barely slips past winless UMass

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Aside from being on the right side of the won-loss ledger, this is absolutely not what Butch Jones or the Tennessee Volunteers needed.

The come-from-ahead last-second loss to Florida in Week 4 set a sizable chunk of Vols Nation to grumbling about the current state of the football program in general and Jones’head-coaching tenure specifically. With winless UMass coming to Neyland Stadium in Week 4, it was viewed as an opportunity for UT to reset and get back on track for games against No. 11 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama the next three weeks.

The good news? They won their third game of the year against the one loss, claiming a 17-13 victory. The bad? The looked rough, ragged and utterly inept, especially on offense, in doing so.

For the game, the Vols totaled 297 yards of offense 62 plays.  In the second half, they ran 31 plays and put up just 64 yards — and 26 of those came on their last drive of the game that didn’t involve a kneel-down.  Their eight possessions went punt, field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, end of game.

So, how did the fans who showed up at Neyland Stadium express their frustration over the current state of the football program?  By morphing into empty seats, apparently.

Armed with a mediocre 30-21 record — and 14-19 mark in SEC play — Jones entered the 2017 season on the coaching hot seat. These last two weeks have done nothing to quiet such talk; in fact, it’s done nothing but ratchets up the calls for his coaching head on a platter.

Should Tennessee stumble against Georgia and Alabama in the coming weeks, all bets are off as to whether Jones will see a sixth season in Knoxville.

Florida State looked sluggish and sloppy in first half vs. N.C. State, as expected

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Florida State, as many probably expected, looked like a team that has not played a game in three weeks after one half of play in Tallahassee against N.C. State. The visiting Wolfpack took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and hold a 17-7 advantage on the Seminoles at halftime in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Ryan Finley completed a 71-yard touchdown to Jakobi Meyers, who performed some acrobatics across the goal line (which was flagged, although the score counted) for the 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

Florida State seemed to get in sync in the second quarter. After two series on the field resulting in a pair of three-and-outs and a total of one yard of offense, Blackman and the Noles put their first drive together to the tune of 12 plays and 75 yards. Blackman capped the drive with a pass to Auden Tate from the four-yard line, but it was this key 3rd and 8 play that suggested Blackman had gotten comfortable for the first time in the game. A dropback pass to Tate went for 24 yards, and the placement of the pass could not have been much better.

That momentum did not seem to last too long, however. Florida State fumbled the ball away in crazy fashion on their next offensive series and later missed a field goal from the NC State 13-yard line. Blackman had a nice spin move to get away from a tackler, but he lost control of the football toward the end of his run, leading to a massive shift in momentum in bizarre fashion.

The play was reviewed to determine if Blackman’s knee had hit the ground prior to the fumble. After the review, the call on the field was upheld, and N.C. state recovered the ball at their two-yard line.

N.C. State’s first two offensive possessions were good for a combined 22 plays and over 120 yards and 10 points.

Blown call by SEC official screws Texas A&M out of a touchdown in first half vs. Arkansas

ESPN
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Arkansas is leading Texas A&M by a score of 21-17 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas after one half of play, but the story of the half will be the blown call by a SEC side judge trailing a long run down the sideline. It was bad.

After Kellen Mond appeared to run the length of the field and stumble his way into the end zone for six, the official on the field ruled Mond had stepped out of bounds at the Arkansas 10-yard line.

He did not.

Because the play was blown dead, the ruling on the field could not be sent upstairs to the instant replay booth. Texas A&M would get no further down the field and had to settle for a field goal as a result.

The two teams exchanged touchdown drives in the first quarter, first with Austin Allen completing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cornelius for the Razorbacks and then Mond completing a pass to a wide-open Christian Kirk for an 81-yard score.

Arkansas regained the lead in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns with Cole Kelley tossing one from two yards out and Chase Hayden running for a six-yard score. The Aggies did eventually get back in the end zone late in the first half with Trayveon Williams finding room up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown.

Report: No. 6 Oklahoma State expected to be down two starting O-linemen against No. 16 TCU

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This is certainly an interesting potential development.

According to Jake Trotter of ESPN.com, the right side of No. 6 Oklahoma State’s offensive line — guard Larry Williams and tackle Zachary Crabtree — is expected to be sidelined for the game against No. 16 TCU in Stillwater.  Both linemen sustained the injuries in the Week 3 win over Pittsburgh, Williams his ankle and Crabtree a toe.

Crabtree has started 32 straight games at right tackle for the Cowboys.  He was named second-team All-Big 12 following the 2016 season, while he was a preseason All-Big 12 selection heading into the 2017 season.

Williams began his collegiate playing career at East Carolina, coming to OSU from the junior college ranks after leaving the Pirates.

The Cowboys enter the conference opener for both schools with one of the most explosive offenses in the country, currently third in the country in total yards per game (607),  tied for fourth in points per game (54) and seventh in passing yards per game (407.3).  OSU enters today’s contest as an 11.5-point favorite according to the line set by Bovada.lv.