Alabama overcomes fast start, leads Texas A&M at half

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Alabama is leading Texas A&M at the half, 28-14, but boy has it been a wild ride to get there.

The game had all of the hype of a mid-November clash of the titans, and Johnny Manziel came ready to unload on Alabama’s defense. After winning the coin toss, Texas A&M took the football and let Manziel drive the Aggies right down field for a touchdown. The drive took seven plays but it felt like fewer with Manziel starting the game with a 12-yard yard and completing a pair of passes over 30 yards to quickly move down close to the end zone. A short pass to Cameron Clear put Texas A&M on the board. Despite the fast start, the first half would eventually be more about Alabama’s success.

After the Aggies held Alabama to a three-and-out deep in their own end, Manziel and the offense struck quickly once more to build a 14-0 lead. Alabama would settle down, driving down field and scoring a touchdown on a pass from AJ McCarron to Kevin Norwood from 22 yards. Early in the second quarter the Crimson Tide had battled back by tying the game when McCarron completed a pass to DeAndrew White, who took it to the house for a 44-yard touchdown. Brand new ballgame.

Alabama took their first lead against Texas A&M since 1988 in the second quarter, once again using a big pass play to their advantage. McCarron found Kenny Bell for a 51-yard touchdown strike that was practically uncontested by the Aggies defense. Momentum at this point appeared to be one-sided after Manziel had been picked off in the end zone.

There was a moment when the refs made a questionable call. With Texas A&M on offense, Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was called for targeting, which was cause for an immediate ejection from the game. However, the official video review overturned the ejection and allowed Clinton-Dix to remain in the game. That would have been a huge loss for the Crimson Tide if the ejection had been upheld. In this instance it looks as though the right call was ultimately made regarding the ejection.

Alabama delivered a critical blow to Texas A&M late in the first half, eating up nearly seven minutes en route to a touchdown to build a 27-14 lead, capped by a rushing touchdown by T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon got up and gave a money sign and a throat slash with his hands, causing the refs to penalize Alabama for an excessive celebration penalty. Texas A&M eventually got to take over from their own 35-yard line but Alabama held the Aggies off the scoreboard before the end of the half.

It has been a heck of a first half, and the second half should be pretty fun as well. Alabama appears to have the momentum working in their favor right now, but this is far too close to call at the half.

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

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.