Nick Saban

CFT Predicts: Alabama-Auburn

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“The Mother of All Iron Bowls” is the descriptor du jour for this year’s version of an Alabama-Auburn rivalry that stretches back to 1893… and, unlike some other cases, it may not actually overstate the game’s importance.

For just the second time in the 77-game history of the rivalry, both the Tide and the Tigers will sit inside the Top Five of the Associated Press rankings on game day.  On the line?  Just a spot in the SEC championship game, a potential BCS bowl bid and, for Alabama, a continued inside track to what could be an unprecedented back-to-back-to-back BCS titles and four in five years.  Oh, and in-state bragging rights for the next 364 days.

Nothing major, nothing of great import will be on the line on The Plains Saturday afternoon.

The current line has Alabama favored by anywhere from 10-12 on the road, although, when it comes to rivalry games — especially one involving two highly-ranked opponents — you can take the odds and toss them out the window.

The last and only other time the stakes were this high for both teams was 1971.  Pitting undefeated and No. 3 Alabama against undefeated and No. 5 Auburn in Birmingham — all Iron Bowls were played at that neutral site up until 1989 — the Tide blew out the Tigers 31-7 to claim the SEC title and a shot at the national championship in the Orange Bowl against unbeaten Nebraska (Cornhuskers 38, Tide 6, for what it’s worth).

So, how will this Grandmother of Them All play out?  The staff at CFT has peered into their respective crystal balls and taken a stab at predicting the outcome.  Our predictions appear below; your predictions and/or complaints can appear below that, in the comments section.

CHRIS HOUSTON
The take: When the season started, few outside the state of Alabama thought this game would be such a big deal. But thanks to the wizardry of new coach Gus Malzahn, the Tigers are sitting at No. 4 in the BCS rankings and can cap an incredible season with a victory over the Crimson Tide. The key to this game for Auburn is to score early and force Alabama to get off its preferred game plan, which is to pound it on the ground and keep the ball out of the hands of the Tigers’ offensive weapons. In the Tigers get on the board early, it will be up to AJ McCarron to help the Tide keep up. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is a dangerous runner and a streaky passer. Alabama’s defense hasn’t really been challenged since September, when Texas A&M put up 42 points. Malzahn will have a crafty game plan ready and, if it clicks early, then Auburn will be in this one right until the end. However, I can’t see McCarron allowing Bama to lose. The Tide will win the Iron Bowl and go on to the SEC title game.

The prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 27

KEVIN MCGUIRE
The take: At times this season we have witnessed Alabama look to have some cracks in their system. Through 11 games, nobody has been able to successfully chip away and break Alabama – not Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, not LSU at home and certainly not a young up-and-coming Ole Miss squad. Enter Auburn, perhaps the hottest team in the SEC with a running game averaging over 300 yards per game. Playing at home, Auburn may have the best chance to attack Alabama consistently enough to keep things close and perhaps steal a win from the team many feel has been on a one-way ride to Pasadena from the start. Is Alabama beatable? Absolutely, but Auburn will still have to bring their best from start to finish. The moment Auburn hits a wall, Alabama will be there waiting. Getting off to a fast start against Alabama would be great for the Tigers, but as we saw against Texas A&M it is going to take a whole lot more to get this Alabama team to crumble. Auburn may have a wrecking ball of a running game with the combo of Tre Mason and Nick Marshall, but Alabama leads the SEC in rushing defense. Something has to give. I just do not think it will be Alabama giving enough.

The prediction: Alabama 30, Auburn 28

JJ STANKEVITZ
The take: It’ll look like a shootout from the start, with Auburn riding a wave of Jordan-Hare momentum to a few early scores. But Alabama will establish the run against a solid-not-great defense, avoiding many third-and-longs in efficient drives downfield. And in true, diabolical fashion, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart will find a way to tie up Nick Marshall, disguising blitzes and defensive sets perfectly to stop a read-option offense. Consider this: Alabama is No. 1 in defensive S&P+, while Auburn is No. 35; Alabama is No. 10 in offensive S&P+ while. Auburn is No. 20. I’m going to side with the numbers and while ‘Bama may fall behind early, once the home field Iron Bowl advantage wears off, it’s going to be Roll Tide, Roll.

The prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 24

JOHN TAYLOR
The take: Sorry to disappoint — and I’ll duck as I type this — but all of the hype and buildup leading into this game will evolve into one gigantic letdown in the form of a blowout.  Auburn will likely hang with Alabama for a quarter, maybe even a half, but the talent disparity between the two teams will become more and more evident as the game wears on.  The Tigers’ overriding strength all season long has been running the ball; it just so happens that the Tide features the No. 4 run defense in the country and is fully capable of forcing AU to do something it absolutely does not want to do: rely heavily on its 104th-ranked passing attack.  Being home on The Plains, Auburn could surprise by keeping it relatively close but I won’t hold my breath.  Alabama, as they have for most of the past five years, will continue to roll.

The prediction: Alabama 41, Auburn 17

Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder reportedly hired as defensive analyst at Oklahoma State

JACKSONVILLE, FL - 2005:  Brian VanGorder of the Jacksonville Jaguars poses for his 2005 NFL headshot at photo day in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Getty Images)
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Staff changes are nearly complete around college football but it appears there is still one hire left to make for Oklahoma State.

According to a report from the Tulsa World, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy is expected to bring on former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder as the team’s new defensive analyst.

VanGorder was fired by the Irish last season after a 1-3 start that saw numerous issues on the defensive side of the ball. He later took a defensive analyst spot at Georgia toward the end of the 2016 campaign but apparently was looking for something else this year and ended up in Stillwater.

The move to bring on the coaching veteran gives Gundy and Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer a wealth of knowledge on staff for that side of the ball as former OSU defensive coordinator Bill Clay is also a defensive analyst on the staff.

Prior to going to South Bend, VanGorder was a DC at Auburn, Georgia, and South Carolina. He also served as head coach of Georgia Southern for one season and made several NFL coaching stops along the way as well but this will be his first gig with a Big 12 program.

Tommy Tuberville says he would rather be Alabama governor than a head coach again

UNITED STATES - MAY 24:  Tommy Tuberville, head football coach of the Auburn Tigers tees off during the FedEx St. Jude Classic Stanford Pro-Am on May 24, 2006 at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.  (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
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Those stories about former head coach Tommy Tuberville making a run at becoming governor of the great state of Alabama appear to have some legs.

The ex-Auburn head man and longtime college football head coach talked to WNSP 105.5 FM (in Mobile, Ala.) about potentially mounting a political campaign on Friday and he didn’t exactly shy away from the fact that he was considering entering the fray.

“I’ve been there done that for many many years in college football,” Tuberville told the hosts when asked if he’d rather be governor or a head coach again. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Talking about this governor thing, I’m kind of testing the wind. But probably be governor, in this time of life. I want to do a little something different and I think I can make a difference if I do decide to run.”

Tuberville added that he is doing some polling on the matter prior to formally beginning any sort of campaign process in order to see how he could potentially do in the race for governor.

The 62-year-old didn’t rule out a return to coaching, joining a TV network or even becoming an athletic director either but it sounds like he has a few political aspirations in mind. Tuberville certainly knows the state well having been at Auburn from 1999-2008 as head coach and leading the team to an undefeated season in 2004. While the fact that he wore plenty of orange back in the day and won six straight Iron Bowls might dissuade certain Alabama fans from voting for him, it appears that the old coach is already laying the ground work for recruiting a few Crimson Tide to his side down the road.

“If you end up running, trying to be the governor, it’s about one big team: The whole state of Alabama,” he said. “When I was at Auburn, I faced quite a few Alabama coaches. You do something on the scale of governorship, you have to have all your friends. I know as many Alabama folks as I do Auburn folks.”

It seems Tuberville is already getting a little political when it comes to appeasing both sides of the aisle in the state of Alabama — and we’re not referring to Republicans and Democrats either.

Wisconsin gives pay raises to head coach Paul Chryst, OC Joe Rudolph

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 24:  Paul Chryst, head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, reacts on the sideline during the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on September 24, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan.  (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
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There is always a certain rhythm to college football and as sure as the sun rises in the East, the offseason after a good year will result in a handful of raises for various coaches.

Such is apparently the case at Wisconsin this week, as documents provided by the school to the Wisconsin State Journal show head coach Paul Chyrst has received a hefty half million bump in salary this year.

Chryst is coming off a terrific year with the Badgers after guiding them to a surprise Big Ten West title and victory in the Cotton Bowl over previously undefeated Western Michigan. He is now set to earn roughly $3.2 million in 2017 and then see annual raises of $100,000 each year until the end of his contract. The head coach and former Wisconsin player was recently extended by the school through 2022.

That’s not the only raise handed out either, as offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph also received a bump of $80,000 this year to bring his salary to $650,000 in 2017 and 2018.

Despite the pay increases, the two Badgers coaches are still well behind most of their peers at the Power Five level and in the Big Ten especially. At Michigan alone, for comparison’s sake, head coach Jim Harbaugh makes around $9 million a season and pays three different assistants seven figures as well.

Georgia doles out pair of hefty raises to two staff members

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 30: Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs poses with running back Sony Michel #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs and defensive tackle Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs after defeating the TCU Horned Frogs at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 31-23. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Two football staffers at Georgia received a nice raise this offseason, according to documents obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to the AJC’s Seth Emerson, Bulldogs running backs coach Dell McGee took home a pay bum of $75,000 recently to put his total compensation at $350,000 per year. 2017 will be his second season with the team under head coach Kirby Smart and is probably worth it alone given the role McGee no doubt had in convincing star tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel to return to school this season.

That’s not the only staff member to get a nice raise however as the program’s strength and conditioning coordinator, Scott Sinclair, received an even larger raise of $80,000, according to the same report. He now makes a whopping $300,000 a year.

While you might think the six-figure raises for two staff members is a tad excessive, even for an SEC program, Georgia is saving $125,000 on the base salary of new defensive line coach Tray Scott compared to his predecessor. Given how important McGee and Sinclair will be for one of the SEC East favorites this year, it is probably money well spent for Smart and the administration.