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Auburn returns field goal for SEC West clinching TD, hands Alabama first loss

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Auburn is getting used to these wild endings. What’s next?

This may have been the craziest ending to an Iron Bowl ever. Alabama’s last-second 57-yard field goal attempt fell short and was returned by Auburn’s Chris Davis from the back of the end zone down the left side of the field and Alabama’s lack of athleticism on the field goal team was unable to catch him. Davis might as well keep running all the way to Atlanta, because the Auburn Tigers are going to play for the SEC Championship after claiming the SEC West Division title with the win over Alabama.

Auburn needed a touchdown to make overtime a possibility, and they got it by fooling Alabama’s secondary in to closing in on a mobile Nick Marshall. Marshall switched hands and tossed to a wide open Sammie Coates, who sprinted down the field for a 39-yard score to tie the game at 28-28. Alabama still had time to work with though with two timeouts and they started to move down field. The game appeared to end in regulation when Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon ran out-of-bounds on a 23-yard run. The clock appeared to expire but officials took another look and decided to add one more second on to the clock, ruling Yeldon stepped out-of-bounds with that much time on the clock. The extra second turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Auburn fans, who were initially not happy with the call.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban then made what turned out to be a poor decision, opting to try a 57-yard field goal with Adam Griffith. The Tide had been 0-3 on field goal attempts by Cade Foster earlier in the game. The decision not to take one more chance with McCarron on the field may have cost Alabama the win, an SEC title and perhaps a shot at a BCS title. Going for a 57-yard field goal given Alabama’s kicking production this season was certainly questionable, without hindsight. Considering the way a game was won at Auburn two weeks ago, Saban should have taken a chance letting McCarron toss one deep.

The longest play in Alabama history appeared to have saved the season’s ultimate goal for the Crimson Tide earlier in the quarter. Pinned inside their own one-yard line, AJ McCarron heaved a deep ball to Amari Cooper down the left side line, and Auburn’s defenders could not make the tackle to allow Cooper to run uncontested the length of the field for a 99-yard touchdown play in the fourth quarter. It gave Alabama a 28-21 lead before Marshall completed the pass to Coates to tie the game.

Auburn will take on either Missouri or South Carolina in next week’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. If Missouri defeats Texas A&M Saturday night it will be Missouri representing the SEC East in the conference championship game.

Wow.

ECU transfer QB Kurt Benkert moves on to Virginia

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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On April 25, East Carolina announced that Kurt Benkert had decided to transfer out of the Pirates football program.  Less than a week later, the quarterback has found himself a new football home.

On Twitter Sunday afternoon, Benkert confirmed that he will be enrolling at Virginia and continuing his collegiate playing career with the Cavaliers.  Beckert also acknowledged his decision in a text message to 247Sports.com.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Beckert said in a portion of the brief text.

As Beckert is headed to UVa. as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Hoos immediately in 2016.  Not only that, but he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Beckert was named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, but sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  In Charlottesville, Beckert will join a competition that includes returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

Mark Richt continues to be the classiest of acts in college football

Mark Richt gestures after being introduced as the new University of Miami NCAA college football head coach, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015,  in Coral Gables, Fla.  (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
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In my seven-plus years at CFT, I’ve never been shy in expressing my absolute and utter respect for Mark Richt, whether it was for an honorable against-the-grain stance on transfers or honoring a high school football player who tragically drowned before he could become a walk-on at Georgia or myriad other things.  Sunday, Richt solidified that respect.

As you may know, Richt and UGA parted ways this offseason, with the head coach ultimately moving on to Miami to take over his alma mater’s football program.  As expected, his departure from Athens was classy.

Just as expected, one of Richt’s returns to his old stomping grounds further showed his class.

Not to be outdone, Richt’s replacement showed his class as well.

Bravo to both head coaches.  Sometimes, most times, being classy is the absolute right move — even as Richt’s successor could take some lessons from his predecessor when it comes to transfers.

Ohio State draftees to sign contracts worth in excess of $110 million

Urban Meyer
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Forget about going shirtless at a satellite camp or a sleepover or climbing up a tree or any of the like; this is what you call a recruiting pitch.

During the course of the three-day NFL draft, a dozen former Ohio State Buckeyes were drafted.  While OSU failed to break its own record for most picks in a single draft, the 12 selections in the first four rounds were the most ever.

And, not surprisingly, those players are going to get paid.

According to PennLive.com‘s David Jones, those players will sign contracts that could be worth a total of $120 million.  Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch has the number pegged slightly lower at $111,462,707.  Either way, that’s a lot of cash — and a lot dollar signs for Urban Meyer to flout in front of potential recruits.

Of course, not all of that money is guaranteed, although the guaranteed dollars involved aren’t too shabby either.  From the Dispatch:

Just the signing bonuses alone, which range from Bosa’s projected $17,017,226 to Jones’ $383,393, have an expected total of $60,526,660. Unless a player does something to cause his contract to be voided, signing bonuses are theirs to keep.

Regardless of how you spin it, former Buckeyes did quite well financially the last couple of days.  And, as Jones alludes to when it comes to James Franklin and Penn State specifically and the Big Ten in general, Meyer and the Buckeyes are in an entirely different zip code than the rest of the conference — a fact that will no doubt come up on the vast expanses of the recruiting trail.

The good news for Franklin and Penn State: They had three of those 11. The bad news for them and everyone else in the league: Urban Meyer is probably preparing a recruiting flyer right now with a 9-figure dollar amount printed in big bold numbers.

Veteran NFL assistant reportedly to fill Alabama’s coaching vacancy

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Buffalo Bills
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On the same day some details emerged on an Alabama assistant’s “resignation,” that assistant’s potential replacement has been identified.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com is reporting that Karl Dunbar is expected to be hired as the Tide’s new defensive line coach.  Dunbar would replace Bo Davis, who “resigned” Friday amidst allegations of potential NCAA violations.

Dunbar served as Nick Saban‘s strength & conditioning coach at LSU from 2001-02, and then returned to Baton Rouge as Les Miles‘ line coach in 2005 after spending two years (2003-04) in the same position at Oklahoma State.

Most of Dunbar’s coaching career, though, especially recently, has come at the NFL level.

From 2006-11, Dunbar was the line coach for the Minnesota Vikings, and then held the same job with the New York Jets from 2012-2014.  Hired by Rex Ryan to coach the Buffalo Bills’ line in 2015, Dunbar was fired in March of this year.

Dunbar is a former NFL defensive lineman who played for Arizona in 1994-95, when Ryan was one of his Cardinals assistant.