Texas A&M v Alabama

Will Alabama vs. Texas A&M dictate BCS title race?


Alabama has won two consecutive BCS national titles despite having one blemish on their final record. For Alabama, the goal is simply not to win but to do so displaying excellence in every way possible. Deep down Alabama players and coaches know they can afford to take a hit in conference play, but this week’s road trip to Texas A&M is about much more. The Aggies were the only team to manage to out-score Alabama last season, and they did so in eye-opening fashion by jumping out to a big first quarter lead and celebrating on Alabama’s storied field with the fans that made the trip to Tuscaloosa last November.

This one has to be a little more personal for Alabama. It is the hottest ticket in College Station perhaps in program history and even the most casual college football fan has probably had this game circled on the calendar since the calendar changed from 2012 to 2013. The hype machine has been in full force all week, but is it worth it? What would be the fallout if Alabama happened to lose? Would Texas A&M automatically pass Oregon, Ohio State and Clemson on their way up the rankings with a win? What exactly does this particular game mean in the grand scheme of the college football world?

Let’s explore both possible outcomes in a little more detail…

If Alabama wins…

Should the Crimson Tide overcome the 12th Man and Johnny Manziel’s latest performance, not too much will change as far as the college football world is concerned. Alabama will remain on top of the polls and could very well gobble up what few first-place votes do not already belong to them. A win on the road against a top ten SEC team tends to speak loudly, which is ironic as it would come at the home of the Midnight Yell and Yell leaders. For Alabama, it will continue to be business as usual, which means the next most important game on the schedule could be November 9 when LSU comes to Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s schedule is favorable leading up to that game, and with a win over Texas A&M the Crimson Tide could be in a position to afford a late loss in division play.

Depending on what happens with LSU, it would be possible Alabama could lose to LSU and still advance to the SEC Championship Game if they manage to win the other games on their schedule, including a regular season finale at Auburn. Texas A&M would likely need Alabama to lose twice in order for the Aggies to make a trip to Atlanta, and that is under the extreme scenario in which LSU loses twice. So for Alabama, a win in College Station may give the defending SEC champs a much easier path back to Atlanta.

But should we write Texas A&M off so soon? Absolutely not. A loss to the top-ranked team, if close, should not result in a significant drop in the polls for the Aggies. With plenty of games still to be played, there will be plenty of time for Texas A&M to work their way back up the polls if they can manage to pick up some key wins along the way. Texas A&M’s schedule is less favorable than Alabama though. The Aggies still have road games at Arkansas, LSU and a surprisingly hot Ole Miss. Texas A&M may need a lot of help to get to Atlanta, but the Aggies could very well play in to the BCS at-large equation by the end of the year.

If Texas A&M wins…

If Texas A&M once again proves they can control the Tide, the Aggies could grab a large handful of first place votes in the polls. The question would then become how many first place votes do they grab away from Oregon, Clemson, and Ohio State? Given the schedule this weekend, a Texas A&M victory could score major points from the voters, so it is entirely possible Texas A&M could become the top-ranked team for the first time since 1957, when Paul “Bear” Bryant was the head coach. Maybe this is a stretch, but it is certainly a realistic possibility despite entering the weekend ranked sixth in the AP and coaches polls.

Like Alabama, Texas A&M would jump out in front of the SEC West division race and take a Texas-sized step toward Atlanta. But this is where it begins to get fun. If the game happens to be close, decided by a single score, it is not at all likely Alabama drops very far in the polls. Alabama would likely remain a top five team and they almost certainly would fall no lower sixth unless Manziel goes off and rewrites all of the offensive record books. And just like Texas A&M, Alabama would have plenty of time to work their way back up the rankings. In fact, it would hypothetically be possible Alabama could ascend back to number one by the end of the regular season and still get shutout of the SEC Championship Game. A lot would have to happen, but it is possible once you take a closer look at the rest of the season and the SEC division tiebreaker rules. Of course, a top-ranked Alabama, SEC championship game appearance or not, would be a virtual lock to own one of the top two spots in the BCS rankings as well to send them back to the championship game.

So does this game really matter all that much?

This match-up certainly matters, but if the main objective is to win a BCS championship then this game may not be quite as important as you may think. After all, Alabama has won the past two BCS titles with a loss on their record so if any program knows it is more about the marathon and not the first couple of miles it is the Crimson Tide. The winner gets the edge in the race to Atlanta, so there is plenty riding on the outcome, but if you are focused on a crystal football at the end of the year, there will be many more important games to come.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press
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Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.