Nick Saban

Nick Saban: ‘I don’t have any unfinished business in the NFL’


First, let’s get this out of the way right up front:

“I’m not going to be the Alabama head coach.” — Nick Saban, two weeks before he became the Alabama head coach.

So, with that matter taken care of, down to the business at hand.

For well over a month, Nick Saban has, once again, been connected to various openings around the NFL.  Specifically and most vociferously, the Tide head coach’s name has been bandied about as a possibility for the opening with the Cleveland Browns.  Hell, as late as this week, and even as Cleveland had seemingly set their sights on another head coach from the collegiate level, a Northeast Ohio scribe was penning a piece headlined “Browns’ Haslam seems poised to make run at Alabama’s Saban.”

All the while, Saban has steadfastly denied an interest in returning to the scene of his only coaching crime, although the denials rang hollow in many an ear thanks to the bungled public handling of the Miami Dolphins situation just over six years ago.  Even attempts by Saban’s wife Terry to quash the speculation — “as far as I’m concerned, this is it” — failed to reach its intended target as the rumors connecting her husband to the professional ranks continued.

Just two days before the Tide takes the field against Notre Dame for a shot at a third BCS title in four seasons, Saban was once again asked about a possible future in the NFL.  And, once again, the future Hall of Fame coach attempted to tamp out whatever embers of a move to the NFL may still be smoldering.

“I don’t have any unfinished business in the NFL,” Saban told reporters during the BCS title game media day in Miami Saturday morning. “It’s not something I’m concerned about. It’s not even anything I want to do.”

Saban’s choice of words to kick off his latest denial is interesting to say the least.  Purveyors of the annual Saban-to-the-NFL rumors like to point to his 15-17 mark in the brief two-year stay with the Dolphins as the main reason he would return to the professional ranks, that easily the worst stop in his otherwise highly successful coaching career has left an itch that he will eventually scratch.  That his drive to excel at everything and anything he puts his hands on would eventually lead him back to the NFL to redeem the lone blemish on his coaching résumé, his steadfast public commitment to the Tide be damned.

Saban’s a smart individual, though, and must realize that his very public butchering of his Dolphins departure makes it impossible for most to accept at face value his myriad declarations of love for his current job.  The only thing he can do to put the rumor wolves at bay?  Nothing really, other than continue on with the job at hand at Alabama.  And continue building a powerhouse FBS program that’s the envy of all but a handful of schools across the country, one that has a chance at BCS history in South Beach Monday night.

Finalists for O’Brien, Outland, Bednarik, other awards announced

Christian McCaffrey
Associated Press

A slew of finalists for college football’s major individual awards were announced Tuesday evening, highlighted by multi-award finalists Derrick HenryChristian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson. Eleven of the 12 awards listed below (excluding the Burlsworth Trophy) are members of the National College Football Awards Assocation and will have their winners announced during ESPN’s Home Depot 25th Anniversary College Football Awards Show, to be broadcast from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Thursday, Dec. 10 (7 p.m. ET).

The winner of the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center will also be revealed on ESPN’s show, but finalists aren’t announced until Monday, Dec. 7.

The finalists are:

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Leonard Fournette, LSU
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Corey Coleman, Baylor
Josh Doctson, TCU
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Hunter Henry, Arkansas
Austin Hooper, Stanford
Jordan Leggett, Clemson

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
Spencer Drango, Baylor
Joshua Garnett, Stanford
A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Tyler Matakevich, Temple
Carl Nassib, Penn State
Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Jeremy Cash, Duke
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Desmond King, Iowa

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Jake Elliott, Memphis
Ka’imi Fairbairn, UCLA

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Michael Carrizosa, San Jose State
Tom Hackett, Utah
Hayden Hunt, Colorado State

Burlsworth Trophy (best walk-on)*
Luke Falk, Washington State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Carl Nassib, Penn State

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Ty Darlington, Oklahoma
Landon Foster, Kentucky
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana

* – winner not announced at ESPN awards show

Gamecocks WR Pharoh Cooper turning pro, says father

Pharoh Cooper
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South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper will play his final collegiate game this Saturday against Clemson. The junior wide receiver will not return for his senior season in Columbia and will instead enter the 2016 NFL Draft, according to his father.

“He definitely appreciates the opportunity to play for South Carolina, and we as parents appreciate the opportunity they gave him,” Cooper’s father, Glen Cooper, said in a story for The Slate. “He wants to ride the wave at its high point.”

According to The Slate report, Cooper’s decision to turn pro was more about what kind of potential he is believed to have entering the NFL next season and not the coaching change underway with the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier resigned as head coach during the season and South Carolina will have a new coach in 2016, which is still to be determined. And he does have the pro potential. Josh Norris of RotoWorld ranks Cooper as the eighth-best wide receiver in the NFL Draft Class of 2016. Cooper also wanted to avoid risking an injury in 2016 before taking the next step toward the NFL, which can tend to be a wise choice for so many players given the uncertainty revolving around the sport.

Cooper leads South Carolina with 887 yards and seven touchdowns this season. With South Carolina out of postseason contention, Cooper will likely fall shy of his 2014 total of 1,136 yards (if he matches that, good night to Clemson’s title hopes), but he could have a chance to tie his team-leading nine touchdown mark from a season ago.

Gary Patterson wants a six or eight-team playoff

Gary Patterson

Last year TCU’s Gary Patterson took the high road when his 11-1 Horned Frogs, declared co-champions of the Big 12 with Baylor, were passed over by Ohio State for the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff. While he may not have been happy about the end result of the first playoff selection process, TCU took care of sending a message by hammering Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. Fast forward to today. Patterson and TCU are nowhere close to being in the playoff discussion now with two losses, but the head coach in Fort Worth knows his conference is at risk of being left out of the playoff fun for a second straight season, and he is backing a call for expansion of the playoff field.

“I’m not going to be a person who’s going to be an advocate of the four after this season,” Patterson said (you can see video of Patterson’s full comments via The Star-Telegram). “I think you need to take the winner of all five [power conferences] and then you have an at-large or three more and have either a six or an eight [team playoff]. I think we need to take people’s opinions out of it and what you do during a season is what gives you the opportunity to play into it. Then I think it’s a lot easier. ThenI think a lot of people would be a lot happier.”

The playoff rankings will be updated later tonight, and one spot will open up after Ohio State was knocked down by Michigan State this past weekend. That spot may not go to the Big 12 as the season draws to a close however, as Iowa is undefeated and Michigan State has a pretty strong one-loss argument to make as well, leaving Oklahoma and Baylor wondering where exactly each will fall in the updated rankings (Oklahoma has a shot of sneaking into the top four, it should be recognized). We already knew one power conference was going to be left out with five power conferences and just four spots to fill. Notre Dame remaining in the playoff picture makes things a bit more nervous for conferences on the fringe like the Big 12 (and the Big Ten), and could also spark expansion of the playoff field sooner than the College Football Playoff would have you believe.

The bottom line is this. There is no perfect way of crowning a college football champion, and there likely never will be. However, if the Big 12 is left out once again while another one or two one-loss teams get a spot, then the Big 12 should start gathering support and finding allies to fight for playoff expansion as soon as possible.

Big 12 releases 2016 schedule; no byes for Texas, Texas Tech or Kansas

James Washington, Ryan Reid

After seeing its conference co-champs left out of the College Football Playoff last season, the Big 12 arranged the schedule to showcase what were to be its biggest contests of the 2015 season toward the back of the schedule this fall. That may end up paying off for Oklahoma, Baylor or Oklahoma State. Next year will be a bit of a different story though, as the Big 12’s 2016 schedule (released today) will spread out some of the expected marquee games. That will include having Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all in action on what will be championship Saturday in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.

The Big 12 conference schedule will open on September 17 with TCU hosting Iowa State and continue the following week with a nice little matchup between Baylor and Oklahoma State in Waco. The Big 12 schedule starts to pick up the pace on October 1 with a full slate of conference games, including Oklahoma visiting TCU and Oklahoma State hosting Texas. The traditional Red River Shootout Rivalry in Dallas between Oklahoma and Texas is scheduled for October 8.

All Big 12 action will conclude on December 3 with three games, including the annual Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. This year that game will determine the Big 12 champion. Baylor and TCU will meet on November 5, and Baylor will visit Oklahoma the following week.

The Texas Longhorns will once again play on Thanksgiving when they host TCU for what should end up being a Thursday night game in Austin. Baylor and Texas Tech will face off in Arlington the following day, a day after the Dallas Cowboys host their traditional Thanksgiving football feast. Kansas State hosts Kansas and Iowa State will host West Virginia for the only two Big 12 games that Saturday.

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury may not be too happy with the schedule. Just like this season, the Red Raiders will not be given a bye week during Big 12 play. From October 1 against Kansas through November 26 against Baylor, Texas Tech gets no time off to prepare for a conference opponent. Neither does Kansas or Texas.

The Big 12 uses a nine-game conference schedule, which allows for every school to play every other team in the conference. Of course, there is no Big 12 championship game. You can see the full Big 12 conference schedule here.