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Alabama, Auburn prepared for monumental Iron Bowl

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Is this the biggest Iron Bowl in the history of Alabama and Auburn football? It may be, at least in the past 40 years. A trip to Atlanta is on the line in this year’s Iron Bowl. For the first time since the SEC split in to two divisions and introduced a conference championship game, the SEC West representative will be determined solely by the outcome of the Iron Bowl, the annual match-up between Alabama and Auburn. The stakes could not be any higher, not when the winner will also have a legitimate shot at advancing to the BCS Championship in Pasadena in addition to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

Something is going to have to give on the field this weekend too. Auburn has the SEC’s top rushing offense, averaging 320.27 yards per game this season. Only one time this season has Auburn been held under 200 yards on the ground (Mississippi State). The Tigers have also rushed for 37 touchdowns this season. Tre Mason leads the charge with 1,153 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Marshall compliments the running game with 823 yards and nine touchdowns. Auburn has had their way with opponents with their running game, but this weekend the Tigers will go up against the SEC’s best rushing defense.

Alabama’s defense has stymied opposing offenses to just 91.27 yards per game and just five times has an opponent scored a touchdown on the ground against the Crimson Tide, and no team has done so more than once in a game at all this season. Auburn has rushed for at least four touchdowns in each of their previous six games.

Alabama has been following a path to Pasadena since wrapping up a BCS championship victory over Notre Dame in Miami last season. Auburn, on the other hand, has appeared out of nowhere in the rear view mirror in the last few weeks and now is signaling to pass. Of course, Alabama’s running game has been pretty solid this year as well, averaging 211.4 yards per game and recording 25 rushing touchdowns. the sophomore duo of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake has accounted for over 1,600 yards and 20 of those touchdowns.

The running games of both teams should take center stage in this year’s Iron Bowl, but many eyes will be on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. In recent weeks a number of Heisman candidates have stumbled down the stretch btu McCarron continues to be a steady player, if not impressive. Is McCarron a worthy Heisman candidate? It is a tough sell to hop entirely on that ship, but if McCarron can go in to Auburn and put together the kind of numbers he had earlier in the season against Texas A&M in leading Alabama to a win, perhaps it will be easier to believe McCarron is a legitimate candidate. There is nothing wrong with being the kind of trusty and dependable and proven winner McCarron has become, but there is still something to prove before getting firmly behind the McCarron for Heisman bandwagon that seems to have developed over the last week or so.

As mentioned before, the winner of this game will be crowned SEC East champion and move on to Atlanta next week to face Missouri or South Carolina. A Missouri win against Texas A&M will send Missouri to the conference championship game, while a loss to Johnny Manziel and the Aggies will send South Carolina back to Atlanta for the first time in three seasons. The winner will also remain in contention for a BCS championship shot. The Crimson Tide would be a lock as the top-team team in the country from the beginning of the year through now if they manage to win this weekend and again in the SEC championship game. Auburn, ranked fourth in the BCS standings, could put together a solid case for jumping over an undefeated Ohio State team. It would be quite the debate, at least.

The way things are lining up though, it may be possible both Alabama and Auburn are playing in BCS bowl games in January. That is a feat that has not happened in the BCS era.

Report: Baylor’s Art Briles pulled in nearly $6 million in pay for 2014

WACO, TX - OCTOBER 24: Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles watches his team before the Iowa State Cyclones take on the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
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Myriad off-field issues have dogged Art Briles‘ Baylor program of late, but at least the Bears head coach can take comfort in the fact that he’s very well compensated.

As Baylor is a private university, they are not forced to release coaching salaries, although those details are available via federal tax returns. The last known salary for Briles was $3.6 million for the 2013 calendar year; according to the tax returns for 2014 obtained by USA Today, Briles salary for that calendar year jumped to more than $5.3 million.

When all of Briles’ compensation is taken into account, he earned just a shade over $5.9 million for 2014.

In the USA Today coaching salary database for 2015, Briles would’ve been the highest-paid coach in the Big 12, ahead of Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.4 million).  He also would’ve been the third-highest paid head coach in all of college football, trailing only Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7.087 million) and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($7.004 million) in total compensation.  Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, at $5.86 million, sits in that No. 3 spot.

Per the tax returns obtained by the website, Briles earned $540,000 in bonuses and incentives; how those were broken down wasn’t detailed in the returns.  Briles received another $28,000 in retirement and other deferred compensation, as well as $5,000 in apparel from Nike.

As for the lag in the numbers for Briles and why the 2015 financials are not available, USA Today explains it thusly:

Because private schools are organized as non-profit organizations, they must annually file a tax return that includes information about the pay of their most highly compensated employees. Although the returns mostly cover fiscal years that involve parts of two calendar years, the IRS requires that the compensation reporting cover the most recently completed calendar year.

Due to the complexity of their returns, large colleges and universities routinely take filing extensions that result in a significant time lag between the period covered by their most recent return and the date they file.

Baylor’s new return covers a tax year from June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015, making 2014 the most recently completed calendar year.

Ohio State sets NFL draft record with 10 picks through three rounds

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Eli Apple of Ohio State holds up a jersey after being picked #10 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Ohio State had a banner first day of the 2016 NFL draft with five Buckeyes selected, although they fell one short of tying the 2004 Miami Hurricanes for most first-round picks in a single year.  A day later, they first matched then set a couple of draft standards.

In Friday’s second round, two more Buckeyes were drafted — wide receiver Michael Thomas and safety Vonn Bell.  That pushed OSU’s total to seven, tying USC in 2008 and Tennessee in 2000 for the most selections through the first two rounds since the common era began in 1967.

In the ensuing round, defensive lineman Adolphus Washington and quarterback-turned wide receiver Braxton Miller were selected. With the nine draft picks through three rounds, OSU broke the common-era draft record of eight set by the 2004 Vols.  OSU wasn’t finished as, shortly after Miller’s selection, tight end Nick Vannett was grabbed toward the end of the third round, giving Urban Meyer‘s program an even 10 draft picks thus far.

On opening night, three Buckeyes were scooped up in the first 10 picks — defensive end Joey Bosa, running back Ezekiel Elliott, cornerback Eli Apple — while offensive lineman Taylor Decker and linebacker Darron Lee were selected before the opening round ended.

With four rounds remaining, and six unselected players still available, the Buckeyes might not be done making history as they are within shouting distance of the all-time record for most selections since the draft went to seven rounds in 1994. The record? 14. The record holder? The 2004 Ohio State Buckeyes, which had seven players taken in the first three rounds.

And, before Bevo commences bloviating, it should be noted that Texas holds the all-time record with 17 picks in the 1984 draft. That year, the draft lasted 12 rounds.

Al-Quadin Muhammad, Miami’s leading sacker, takes to social media to reveal surgery

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Al-Quadin Muhammad #98 of the Miami Hurricanes sacks Antonio Bostick #13 of the Savannah State Tigers on September 21, 2013 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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While Miami had not yet confirmed it, one of the most talented Hurricanes on the defensive side of the ball, Al-Quadin Muhammad (pictured, right), underwent a successful but unspecified surgical procedure recently.  And just how did we know that initially?  Because the player posted a picture of himself laying in a hospital bed and clothed in hospital garb, that’s how.

Subsequent to Muhammad’s social media revelation, the university confirmed that the lineman had undergone “a small surgical procedure… on his knee.”  Muhammad is expected to resume football activities in a couple of weeks.

The redshirt junior played in 12 games in 2015, leading the team in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (five). He’ll enter summer camp, provided he doesn’t suffer a setback, as arguably the Hurricanes’ top pass rusher.

Starting corner Brendon Clements reinstated by Navy

ANNAPOLIS, MD - NOVEMBER 09: Cornerback Brendon Clements #1 of the Navy Midshipmen tackles wide receiver Marcus Kemp #14 of the Hawaii Warriors during the second quarter at NavyMarine Corps Memorial Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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A potentially significant blow to Navy’s secondary has been averted.

Back in February, Navy announced that Brendon Clements had been indefinitely removed from the football team’s roster for violating Naval Academy rules.  It was initially thought that the senior’s playing career had come to an end, although that could never be confirmed.

Nearly three months later, however, the service academy announced that the starting cornerback has been reinstated.

Over the past three seasons, Clements started 35 games for the Midshipmen. Those are easily the most of any returning Navy player.