Alabama survives roller coaster ride with Texas A&M, 49-42


Texas A&M started on a high note but hit the high C just a tad early against the top-ranked Alabama. Alabama calmed down and took firm control on the road of one of the most anticipated games of the season, but had to hang on for a 49-42 victory. They certainly had to breathe a sigh of relief after this one.

Alabama showed the poise of a champion, which should be expected when Nick Saban is the head coach and AJ McCarron is the quarterback. Down 14-0 after two offensive drives by Texas A&M, McCarron and Alabama went to work to claw back in to the game and they did so masterfully. Alabama scored four touchdowns before halftime and they did so only entering the red zone once. McCarron connected on big touchdown plays with Kevin Norwood (22 yards), DeAndrew White (44 yards) and Kenny Bell (51 yards) and T.J. Yeldon punched one in from the goal line on the only red zone opportunity for Alabama in the first half. Alabama had taken full control of the game, with the defense doing their part to not allow Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel from going off. Manziel had his moments that baffle the eyes, but he also had his negative moments. Manziel threw one interception in the end zone and had another returned by Vinnie Sunseri for a touchdown early in the third quarter (GIF via SB Nation). Sunseri’s pick-six gave Alabama a 35-14 lead.

Texas A&M did put up a fight in the fourth quarter to make things somewhat interesting. The defense forced a fumble by Yeldon in a goal line stand and boy did the Aggies capitalize. Manziel dropped back and unloaded a deep pass down the left side of the field to Mike Evans, who separated from his defender and dashed down field for a 95-yard touchdown to bring the Aggies within one score, down 42-35.

Showing the composure of a proven winner, Alabama stormed right back down field on their ensuing possession. Alabama marched right down to the five yard line. After a timeout, Alabama went to a play-action pass and McCarron completed a pass to Jalston Fowler for the score. It was just the second catch of the year for Fowler and it put Alabama up two scores with just under two and a half minutes to play. Texas A&M did manage one more late touchdown to make it a seven-point game, but Alabama recovered the ensuing onside kick to cement the hard-fought victory.

Now the question becomes who out there can beat Alabama? The Tide have shown some cracks in their first two games but are now 2-0 and remain the team to beat. Do we now look ahead to November 9 when LSU visits Alabama, or is there another team on Alabama’s schedule capable of pulling the upset? If it was not Texas A&M, who could it be?

American, ACC announce officiating alliance

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The ACC and the American have struck a deal for a football officiating alliance, the American announced Monday. The new program will see the two conferences cooperate on all things officiating, from training to scheduling to evaluation.

With the move, the ACC’s Dennis Hennigan will oversee the alliance, while the American’s Terry McAulay will step down as the league’s coordinator of football officiating and the American will hire a new supervisor of football officials.

“We are excited to partner with the ACC regarding the administration of our football officiating program,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “This alliance will provide both conferences with a deep roster of the best college football officials and will provide for greater efficiency and consistency in the training and evaluation of officials as well as enhanced opportunities for the recruitment of officials. We look forward to working with Dennis Hennigan, who was regarded as one of the top on-field officials in college football and has since become a leader on the administrative side. I also want to thank Commissioner John Swofford for his cooperation in reaching this mutually beneficial arrangement.”

The new alliance means ACC officials could oversee a Tulane-Tulsa game, while AAC officials would work a Clemson-Georgia Tech game. The ACC-AAC Alliance will go into effect for the 2018 season.

ACC and American team up to improve officiating oversight

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The ACC and American Athletic Conference are coming together with the intent on improving officiating oversight between the two conferences. According to an announcement from the AAC, ACC supervisor of officials Dennis Hennigan will serve as the lead administrator and take on the responsibility of hiring and training officials used in both conferences.

“We are excited to partner with the ACC regarding the administration of our football officiating program,” AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a released statement. “This alliance will provide both conferences with a deep roster of the best college football officials and will provide for greater efficiency and consistency in the training and evaluation of officials as well as enhanced opportunities for the recruitment of officials.”

The AAC reportedly removed Terry McAulay from his long-time role as the conference’s coordinator of football officiating, a role he held in the old Big East and carried over to the AAC amid conference realignment changes. The AAC confirmed McAulay will no longer be associated with the conference in that role. The statement from the AAC says the conference will hire a new Supervisor of Football Officials that will help manage the officiating in the AAC and act as a go-to contact for coaches around the league.

There is no word on whether or not this alliance will lead to a combined instant replay process with a central command hub for instant replay reviews. Instead, the alliance seems to focus on working with officials to ensure calls are being called consistently throughout each league. Having officials on the same page with calling penalties and managing a game has been a problem with few answers. This likely won’t guarantee a perfectly called game every week in each conference, but it may prove to be a step in the right direction.

Brother of five-star recruit walking on at Florida

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Surely this is all a coincidence and not at all a way to gain a recruiting advantage, but junior college linebacker Umstead Sanders will join the Florida Gators as a walk-on player this year. The Gators do have a need to boost the depth at linebacker, so the addition of a junior college player is a quick and easy fix to address that concern, but there is a little more to the story here. Sanders is also the older brother of Trey Sanders, a five-star running back in the Class of 2019 from Bradenton, Florida.

Umstead Sanders announced he will be joining the Florida program with a message on Twitter over the weekend. He will do so as a preferred walk-on, which will likely lead to him landing a scholarship later this year. Sanders is expected to enroll at Florida this summer, so he is not around for spring football practices already underway in Gainesville. While the addition of a 6′-2″ 240-lb linebacker is nice, the whole thing smells like a package deal pitch to lure Sanders’ younger brother into the program down the line.

Package deal commitments and recruiting strategies have long been a part of the game, so this would hardly be anything new if there is a wink and nod to the recruiting efforts going on at Florida. There are no recruiting rules that could prevent Florida from offering a scholarship to a junior college player with the hope of landing his brother in the next recruiting cycle. Other schools have gone so far as to hire the fathers of certain recruits to hopefully gain an advantage, and making sales pitches to high school teammates and family members with scholarships involved has been a trendy technique some schools have put to good use.

Dan Mullen certainly knows what it takes to revamp the Florida program, and taking advantage of all the recruiting angles he can is fair game.

Louisville and UCF line up future home-and-home series

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Former conference foes will be getting together for a reunion of sorts in 2021 and 2022. Louisville and UCF have agreed to a home-and-home series in those years.

Louisville will host UCF on Sept. 18, 2021. The Knights will host the Cardinals in the second game of the home-and-home scheduling agreement the following season on Sept. 17, 2022.

Louisville and UCF have met just once before, and it came as conference foes back in 2013. Blake Bortles and the Knights pulled an upset on the road against Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater, 38-35, which gave the Knights the path to an American Athletic Conference championship in the first season of the conference’s existence. UCF went on to beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and Louisville ended the year with a Russell Athletic Bowl smackdown of the Miami Hurricanes. After one year as conference foes, Louisville left the AAC to join the ACC and the two schools have not crossed paths since.

The addition of the UCF series will nearly complete Louisville’s nonconference schedule in both seasons with just one vacancy to fill each of those years. Louisville will open the 2021 season in Atlanta against Ole Miss. The Cardinals also continue their regular season rivalry with Kentucky of the SEC in each season. Louisville will also play South Florida in the 2022 season.

Despite the argument from the AAC that it is a power conference, the scheduling of UCF does not satisfy the ACC’s power conference scheduling requirement for its members unless an exception is made. Of course, Louisville playing Kentucky annually meets that requirement.

The addition of Louisville in 2021 and 2022 will ensure UCF will face at least one power conference opponent on an annual basis through 2025 as the future schedules currently show. UCF will play North Carolina and Pittsburgh this upcoming season, Stanford and Pittsburgh in 2019, North Carolina and Georgia Tech in 2020, Texas in 2023, and North Carolina in 2024 and 2025.