Saban: ‘I’m totally committed to Alabama’

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For years, the speculation went that, when Mack Brown stepped down/was pushed out the door as Texas’ head football coach, the university would make a full-on push to land Nick Saban as his replacement.  In late September, a UT regent went on the record to reveal that he, along with a former regent, had broached the subject in a 45-minute meeting with Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, of replacing Brown as Longhorns coach this past January.

That revelation was further buttressed by documents obtained recently by the Associated Press which revealed Sexton had told school officials “that UT is the only job Nick would possibly consider leaving Alabama for.”

Understandably, the latest AP report sent the rumor mill, already at a heightened DEFCON level thanks to rumors that Saban’s wife was house-shopping in Austin recently, into overdrive.  Just as understandably, Saban once again attempted to tamp out the fires of speculation that have no doubt pushed his frustration up a notch or two, if for nothing more than the timing of the reports.

The initial report surfaced in mid-September, during the week leading up to the Texas A&M game.  The latest one comes just a few days before the game with LSU.

“Well I don’t know where these reports come from,” Saban told ESPN‘s Tom Rinaldi by way of al.com. “I’ve sort of addressed the situation before. I’m totally committed to the University of Alabama, looking forward to the game we have this week and all my focus has been on LSU and what our team needs to do to play their best.”

There’s really nothing more Saban can do, thanks in large part to the utter debacle that was his departure from the Miami Dolphins for Tuscaloosa.  Give an unequivocal denial, and people simply point to the South Florida brouhaha.  Give anything less than an unequivocal denial, and it simply fuels the speculation.  In reality, it’s a lose-lose situation for the coach.

And what of Alabama, what can they do?  Nothing, really.  They can throw more money at Saban — USA Today confirmed in its annual salary database that he is once again the highest-paid head coach in college football — but Texas has even deeper pockets and can match any dollar flinging done by any program in the country.

No, it’s best for both Saban and the university to realize that this speculation simply won’t go away, at least until the head-coaching position at UT is settled once and for all.  Well, accept that reality while continuing to collect BCS hardware.  That, above all else, helps blunt the impact of the constant whirring of the rumor mill.

No. 5 USC opens flat against Cal and it’s all tied up in Berkeley at halftime

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Imagine telling somebody before the season that No. 5 USC would dominate Stanford in the trenches during a blowout, but struggle against the other Bay Area team in a nail-bitter. Up is down, down is up in the Pac-12 apparently.

The Trojans came out flat to start their annual weekend trip to the Bay Area and needed a few defensive stands to keep the score locked at 13-all on a warm California day between the two in-state rivals.

Quarterback Sam Darnold (157 yards, one touchdown) did his Heisman campaign no favors, tossing his seventh interception of the season (after just nine in all of 2016). Things could have been worse for the signal-caller and his inexperienced receiving corps too as the Golden Bears nearly grabbed two others. Part of the issue could be that his terrific tailback Ronald Jones II failed to make the trip up for the game with an injury and true freshman Stephen Carr (36 yards) was forced to carry much of the load.

Cal’s offense had its own moments but was just 2-of-8 on third down conversions to help stall some early momentum. QB Ross Bowers threw for 124 yards but it was big running back Vic Enwere who was the star of the show with 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown he punched in on 4th and goal. The real story for the home team was the continued play of their defense however, pressuring Darnold on a number of snaps, forcing two turnovers and covering exceptionally well downfield to limit big plays.

The performance through two quarters will lead many to question whether USC really should be ranked in the top five and considered the Pac-12 favorite but the cardinal and gold could turn things around with a trip to the locker room and some adjustments. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with Justin Wilcox’s squad giving everything they can to another big name opponent in Berkeley this month.

Alabama dropping anchor on Vandy’s upset dream, leads 31-0 at half

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Vanderbilt came into the afternoon with the SEC’s top-ranked scoring defense. Yeah, about that…

No. 1 Alabama scored touchdowns on three straight offensive possessions to build a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and the Crimson Tide lead the Commodores 31-0 at halftime in Nashville. Bo Scarbrough was responsible for two of the Alabama touchdowns, and Damien Harris has take credit for the other two. Jalen Hurts has even gotten in on the running game a little bit while not having the pressure to perform through the air in this one.

On defense, Alabama has held Vanderbilt down quite well too. The Commodores converted just one of six third down situations and the Vandy offense has lost the football twice by way of a fumble.

If you had hoped Vanderbilt could maybe keep this one interesting for at least a half, you were out of luck. Alabama is about to cruise its way to a 4-0 record.

Michigan starting QB Wilton Speight knocked out game by Purdue

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Given the offensive struggles through three weeks of the season, there were a growing number of fans and media calling for Michigan to make a change at quarterback.  Unintentionally, that wish was granted Saturday afternoon.

In the first quarter of UM’s Big Ten opener against Purdue, Wilton Speight was sacked by Markus Bailey for an 11-yard loss on a third-and-five play.  Speight left the game and, ultimately, the stadium entirely as he was taken to a local West Lafayette hospital for further evaluation.

At least for the moment, it appears doubtful he’ll return to the game.

Prior to the injury, Speight was 2-4 passing for 10 yards.  His replacement, backup John O’Korn, is currently 5-5 for 61 yards.  O’Korn has the game’s lone score as well, a 12-yard pass to Zach Gentry early in the second quarter.

Entering the game, Speight had led the Wolverines to just one touchdown on 10 drives into the red zone.  That was O’Korn’s first red-zone trip of the season.

Through the first 19 minutes of game time, the two teams have combined for 154 yards of offense.  The Boilermakers have been held to just a pair of first downs with 11 minutes left in the second quarter.

UPDATED 5:22 p.m. ET: Of course, almost as soon as I hit publish, the Boilermakers tied the score at seven-all.

TCU putting Oklahoma State on upset alert at the half in Stillwater

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Through one half in Stillwater, TCU has Oklahoma State on the ropes. The Frogs have dominated the ball and claim a 20-10 advantage on the scoreboard.

TCU controlled the game’s entire first quarter, running 25 of the game’s first 33 plays. The problem for the Frogs was this: those 25 plays resulted in only two Jonathan Song field goals, while one of Oklahoma State’s eight snaps as an 86-yard bomb from Mason Rudolph to James Washington.

The Frogs moved 75 yards in seven plays on their next drive, aided largely by a 15-yard dead ball personal foul that converted a 3rd-and-5 inside TCU’s own territory. Darius Anderson raced in from 28 yards out to give TCU a 13-7 lead with 14:28 left in the first half.

Oklahoma State moved into TCU territory on their next possession, but a Ben Banogu sack of Rudolph forced a fumble, which TCU’s Jordan Brailford recovered at the Frogs’ 36-yard line. A 9-yard Kenny Hill pass to John Diarse staked the Frogs to a 20-7 edge with 7:15 remaining before the half.

The Cowboys stopped the bleeding with a 29-yard Matt Ammendola field goal to pull within 20-10, but TCU moved into Oklahoma State territory with a chance to blow the game wide open. However, Hill was intercepted on an overthrow by Cowboys safety Tre Flowers. Taking over with 3:28 before the half, Oklahoma State had a chance to close their deficit to 20-17 with a touchdown but instead went three-and-out.

Rudolph closed the half hitting 6-of-14 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown and a fumble. He is 5-of-13 for 53 yards outside of the bomb to Washington. Justice Hill has rushed 14 times for 54 yards.

Hill has connected on 16-of-25 throws for 126 yards with a score and a pick while rushing four times for 14 yards. Anderson leads all runners with 74 yards and a score on 11 carries.

Overall, TCU has run 48 plays to Oklahoma State’s 30, owns a 20-9 first downs edge, and has possessed the ball for 20:56.

The Cowboys will receive to open the second half.