Texas A&M v Alabama

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

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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.

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.