Alabama, Texas A&M and the Heisman

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Beyond all the national implications of Saturday’s huge Alabama-Texas A&M showdown, there is the matter of how it will affect the race for this year’s Heisman Trophy.

Last season’s 29-24 upset win by the Aggies over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa helped propel Johnny Manziel to an improbable Heisman. His 4,600 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns was remarkable, but his performance against Alabama assured he would become the first freshman to take home the trophy.

Almost one year later, the situation has changed. Manziel is well-established as the premier player in college football, but the obstacles in place between him and another Heisman are many.

It’s no coincidence that there’s only been one two-time Heisman winner, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who captured the trophy in 1974 and 1975. But almost 40 years of perspective hints to us that Griffin’s repeat was probably a matter of happenstance, a case of the Heisman electorate temporarily falling asleep at the wheel

Think of some of the amazing players who had a chance to pull it off but couldn’t: Doc Blanchard of Army, Doak Walker of SMU, Roger Staubach of Navy, Billy Sims of Oklahoma, Ty Detmer of BYU, Matt Leinart of USC and Tim Tebow of Florida.  The failure of these players to win that second trophy raised the bar for future players attempting a shot at it. After all, the next player to match Griffin’s feat will have to be put on the short list of all-time college football legends, right? The Heisman electorate went against normal convention and selected a freshman last time around.  Casually doling out two Heismans is another story.

Add to that the matter of Manziel’s off-season, off-field antics, and the chances of him repeating are remote.

But if Manziel is going to be the one to defy history and take his place in that pantheon of all-time greats, it all starts with what he does on Saturday. A prolific performances against the Tide would give him plenty of momentum in the race and probably assure that he at least gets a return invite to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Playing poorly in a loss to Alabama means his Heisman hopes will be officially vanquished. He’ll have to be satisfied with his one trophy.

But Manziel isn’t the only Heisman candidate in this game. There’s also A.J. McCarron, the Tide’s senior quarterback. He led the nation in passing efficiency last season while guiding his team to its second-straight national title. While he’s off to a slow start so far, he has a chance to do what no other quarterback has ever done — win three straight titles. If he plays well in leading Bama to a victory over the Aggies, he’ll be in the Heisman conversation and have a chance to get to New York if he finishes the season strong. But if Alabama loses, you can probably kiss his Heisman hopes goodbye.

When these two teams last met, the Heisman race was a mess and waiting for a player to take control. Manziel did that. But this season they meet in the early stages of the race, with several strong contenders still vying for the trophy. It’s unlikely that the outcome of this game will have the same positive impact it had last year, unless we see another legendary performance take place.

Knowing Manziel and McCarron, it could happen.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.

Stanford schedules 2018 game against FCS UC Davis

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Let this post serve as your annual reminder that Notre Dame, UCLA and USC remain the only FBS programs who have never played a game against or scheduled a game with a team from the FCS/Div. 1-AA.

In that vein, Stanford announced Wednesday that it has scheduled a 2018 game against UC Davis.  That game will, of course, be played at the Cardinal’s football home, Stanford Stadium, on Sept. 15 of that year.

The two football programs have met three times previously, the last coming in 2014.  The Cardinal holds a 2-1 advantage in the miniseries, with the lone loss coming back in 2005

In addition to the game against the FCS program, Stanford also has 2018 non-conference games scheduled with San Diego State, at home, and Notre Dame, in South Bend.  Their Pac-12 schedule that season consists of home games against Oregon State, USC, Utah, and Washington State as well as road trips to Arizona State, California, Oregon, UCLA, and Washington.

Other future non-conference games, with the annual rivalry game versus Notre Dame a given, include Boston College, BYU, Kansas State, Northwestern, TCU and Vanderbilt.

Starting slotback leaves Army for Elon

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Even as Tyler Campbell seemed determined to transfer from the Army football program, head coach Jeff Monken had held out hope that the starting slotback would reverse course and return to the service academy.  In the end, that hope proved futile.

According to Sal Interdonato of HudsonValley.com, Campbell has followed through with his departure plans and has transferred to Elon.  As the Phoenix play at the FCS level, Campbell will be eligible to play immediately in 2017.

A third-year junior, Campbell will have two seasons of eligibility at his disposal.

Last season, Campbell started 11 of the 13 games in which he played.  He ran for 326 yards on 34 carries — his 9.6 yards per carry was tops on the Black Knights — while adding another 71 yards on a pair of receptions.  He saved his best for last, rushing for a career-high 88 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown, in the Heart of Dallas Bowl win over North Texas.

While in the offensive backfield at Army, he’ll play in the defensive backfield at Elon as he’s currently listed as a cornerback for the Phoenix.