Nick Saban

Top Six unchanged as Sooners reenter coaches’ poll Top 10

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While it wasn’t nearly the level of carnage we witnessed last week, there were a handful of changes in the latest USA Today coaches’ poll.

Showing the respect they’ve gained since beginning the season unranked, Missouri remained in the Top 10 at No. 10 despite suffering its first loss of the season to South Carolina Saturday night.  The Tigers had entered Week 9 rated as the No. 7 team in the country according to the coaches.

Another Top-10 team hit with its first loss wasn’t as fortunate.  Coming off its loss to Oklahoma, Texas Tech tumbled six spots to come in at No. 15.

The beneficiary of those twin drops was the Sooners, now back into the Top 10 at No. 9.  OU moved up three positions from where they were a week ago.

Seeing as the Top Six teams all kept its records unblemished, those spots saw no change.

Alabama and Oregon are, once again, 1-2; the Tide and Ducks have held those positions in each of the last eight coaches’ poll releases.  Those two are also the only teams receiving first-place votes, with the Tide at 56 and the Ducks at six.  The latter actually picked up two first-place votes — one at the expense of Alabama, the other from No. 3 Florida State.

Ohio State is again No. 4, but saw its points deficit to FSU balloon from 28 to 44 in the span of seven days.  Not only that, but No. 5 Baylor cut into the lead the Buckeyes held over the Bears coming out of Week 8.  Last Sunday, Baylor trailed Ohio State by 127 points; today, the Bears’ deficit stands at 82.

Miami at No. 6, Stanford at No. 7 and Clemson at No. 8 — up one and two, respectively, from a week ago — round out the Top 10.

Auburn made the biggest move up this week, climbing six spots to No. 11.  UCLA, on the other hand, took the biggest fall by plunging eight spots to No. 19.

No. 19 Virginia Tech and No. 21 Nebraska dropped out of the Top 25, replaced by Michigan State (No. 24) and Notre Dame (No. 25).

Coaches' Poll Week 9

WVU, Dana Holgorsen reach agreement on contract extension

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 05:  Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia Mountaineers prepare to take the field against the Kansas Jayhawks during the game on November 5, 2016 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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On the same night West Virginia put the finishing touches on a much-needed bounceback season, the man in charge of the rebound has been rewarded.

Shortly after WVU’s win over Baylor in the regular-season finale, the school confirmed in a press release that Dana Holgorsen has agreed to a new contract to remain on with the Mountaineers.  Holgorsen’s new deal runs through the 2021 season; his old deal had been set to expire after the 2017 season.

The announcement comes nine months after it was reported that talks between the two sides had come to an end, raising questions about Holgorsen’s long-term future with the program.  This deal confirms that, in the here and now, Holgorsen and athletic director Shane Lyons are singing from the same hymnal.

“I said back in the spring that Coach Holgorsen and I were focused on nothing but a successful 2016 football season, and I think we’ve proven that,” Lyons said in a statement. “Now that the regular season has come to a close, the time is right to finalize a new contract for Dana and keep our program going in a positive direction.

“Dana and I have always had a good, open dialogue, and we want this program to succeed at the highest level,” Lyons added. “I am pleased and happy that he wants to continue to lead the Mountaineer football program. Part of my job is to give him the resources to succeed, and we will continue to work together closely to bring the very best to West Virginia football.”

Saturday’s night win gives the Mountaineers 10 in 2016 with a bowl remaining, the first time they’ve reached double digits since Holgorsen’s first season in 2011.  In between, Holgorsen’s squad stumbled to a 26-25 overall record and a 15-21 mark in Big 12 play, leading some to put the coach on the hot seat entering each of the last two seasons.

The second-place finish in the Big 12 is easily the program’s best since joining the conference for the 2012 season.  With a bowl victory, WVU would hit 11 wins for the first time since 2007 and just the sixth time in program history.

“I am proud of our team and what we have accomplished this year by being only the ninth squad in school history to win 10 games in a season,” Holgorsen said. “I want to congratulate and thank our coaching staff and players for a job well done. I also want to thank President Gee, Shane and Keli Cunningham for their commitment and support. Going forward, my focus is squarely on recruiting and the upcoming bowl game. I strongly believe that our football program is in position to be successful for a very long time.

Holgorsen’s 2016 salary called for total pay of $2.98 million, seventh amongst Big 12 head coaches.   The new deal would bump his 2017 salary to $3.5 million, fifth in the league.  With annual raises built in, Holgorsen’s total pay would top out at $4 million in the final year of the deal.

No. 1 Alabama strolls into Playoff with 3rd straight SEC championship

Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough (9) runs against Florida defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta.(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
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Though no one will ever come out and say it, Alabama didn’t have to win on Saturday. The Tide clinched their third straight College Football Playoff trip with last week’s 30-12 victory over Auburn, and nothing that happened under the Georgia Dome roof would change that. As far as the next month is considered, the only thing on the line in Atlanta was whether Florida or Auburn would represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl.

But, to quote a famous, fictional Alabamian, Alabama did as Alabama does. They won anyway. And they won big.

No. 1 Alabama waltzed to a 54-16 rout over No. 15 Florida, securing the Tide’s third straight SEC championship and its third straight Playoff berth.

Florida opened the game with a 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard strike from Austin Appleby to Antonio Callaway, then immediately forced a three-and-out. But the very next play was an Appleby interception, and the boulder started rolling downhill from there.

Alabama got on the board with an Adam Griffith field goal and, on the ensuing possession, Minkah Fitzpatrick snared an errant Appleby pass for a 44-yard pick-six to give the Tide the lead at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter.

Florida’s next possession ended in a punt — that was blocked and returned 27 yards by Joshua Jacobs for a touchdown. (The extra point was itself blocked and returned for two points by Florida.)

By that point, Alabama enjoyed a 16-9 lead without gaining a first down on offense.

Jalen Hurts and company took care of that, though, moving 88 yards in seven plays punctuated by a 6-yard Gehrig Dieter reception.

Florida ended its next possession with yet another disaster, this time a fake punt in their own territory that never had a chance of achieving a first down. Florida was spared when Adam Griffith‘s field goal missed, but Griffith converted a 25-yard field goal on his next try and the Tide’s following possession ended in a 6-yard Jacobs run — giving Alabama a 33-9 lead and the SEC Championship record for most points in a half.

Florida closed the half with a 92-yard touchdown drive capped by a 25-yard strike from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby to pull within 33-16 at the break. Any shot at a Florida second-half comeback ended in the middle of the third quarter when, staked to a 1st-and-goal at the Alabama 2-yard line, three consecutive runs netted zero yards and Appleby’s fourth down connection to Goolsby sailed out of bounds. Alabama immediately answered by moving 98 yards in eight snaps, most of which came on the legs of Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough.

Scarborough capped Alabama’s next drive — this a 14-play, 13-run, 7-minute, 34-second, 91-yard migration — with his second rushing touchdown of the day, opening the gap to 47-16 with 9:15 remaining. Derrick Gore closed the scoring with a 10-yard burst up the middle with 3:48 to play.

For the game, Alabama rushed 38 times for 234 yards and four touchdowns; Scarborough carried 11 times for 91 yards and two scores, and Harris added eight rushes for 86 yards. Hurts booked a modest day of 11-of-20 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown. Appleby completed his day with 26 completions on 39 attempts for 261 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Florida totaled precisely zero rushing yards on 30 credited rushes.

Alabama became the second team in the league’s championship game era to win three straight SEC titles; next season they’ll attempt to tie Florida’s record of four straight SEC Championship victories from 1993-96. The win secured Nick Saban‘s fifth SEC championship at Alabama (and his seventh overall) . It also pushed Alabama past Florida for the most SEC Championship victories at eight in 12 total appearances and edged the Tide to a 5-4 lead in head-to-head SEC title games. The victory extended the Tide’s overall SEC championship lead to 26 total crowns.

The Tide’s 54 points were five off the SEC Championship record (Auburn, 2013) and the most by a Florida opponent since Nebraska steamrolled the Gators 62-24 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

Saturday’s game was notable for a number of reasons. It was the 25th SEC Championship. It was the final SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome. It was the final SEC game legendary broadcaster Verne Lundquist will ever call. And it was the first SEC title game since, oh, about 2005 with absolutely zero national championship stakes on the line.

And as long as the Tide stays this far ahead of the rest of the SEC, it won’t be the last.

Tom Herman’s Texas deal worth nearly $30 million over five years

Tom Herman holds up the Hook 'em Horns sign during a news conference where he was introduced as Texas' new head NCAA college football coach, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Austin. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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Not surprisingly, Tom Herman‘s move from Houston to Texas will prove very beneficial financially.

Exactly a week after officially announcing his hiring, UT’s board of regents on Saturday approved Herman’s five-year contract.  Herman is scheduled to receive $28.75 million in compensation over the five years, with the first year being worth $5.25 million.  The man Herman replaced, Charlie Strong, earned $5.2 million in 2016 according to USA Today‘s salary database.

He’ll be eligible for annual raises of $250,000.  The final year of the deal, at this moment, would be worth $6.25 million.

Those numbers do not include any potential bonuses Herman may earn.  USA Today‘s Steve Berkowitz writes that “Herman will be able to make up to $725,000 a year in bonuses – about $275,000 less than Strong had been able to get.”

There’s also a little bit of history as part of the deal.  From the San Antonio Express-News:

His contract, approved unanimously by the board of regents, is believed to be the first to call for a UT coach to owe the school a lump-sum buyout if he leaves for another job. In that case, Herman would owe UT $3 million per year remaining on his contract, plus the salaries of any remaining assistants.

In Herman’s first year at Houston, he had a total pay before bonuses of $1.45 million.  That number was bumped to $3 million in November of last year, and the university was prepared to raise it even further in an attempt to entice the coach to stay.

Based on this year’s numbers, Herman’s 2017 salary would’ve been tied for fifth nationally (Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher) and solo second in the Big 12 (Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, $5.5 million).  Besides Stoops, Herman would’ve trailed only Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($9 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($6.94 million) and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($6.1 million).

Four of those five coaches, aside from Harbaugh, have won at least one national championship.

Baker Mayfield confirms he’s returning to Oklahoma for senior season

NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 3: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Oklahoma State Cowboys December 3, 2016 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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It was a pretty damn good day all around for Oklahoma Saturday.

Not only did OU run away from Oklahoma State in their annual Bedlam rivalry game, the Sooners claimed an undisputed Big 12 championship.  It was Bob Stoops‘ 10th such title as OU’s head coach.

Shortly after the win, the Sooners received positive news on the personnel front as quarterback Baker Mayfield confirmed that, yes, he will be returning to Norman for his senior season next year.

It was thought that Mayfield was heavily leaning toward such a tack, but the confirmation will be welcome news for the football program.

Mayfield had a 2015 season that many thought made him worthy of being a Heisman finalist, although he came in just outside that rarefied air in finishing fourth in the voting. Many expect him to be one of the players invited to New York City this season as a finalist.

The past two seasons, Mayfield has thrown for 7,369 yards and 74 touchdowns. He’s added another 13 touchdowns on the ground.

The Sooners have gone 21-4 with Mayfield as the starter, won back-to-back conference championships and qualified for the 2015 College Football PLayoff.