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

Cal hires Marques Tuiasasopo to coach quarterbacks

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Noah Westerfield #33 of the California Golden Bears runs onto the field prior to the start of an NCAA football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at California Memorial Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Former Washington quarterback great Marques Tuiasasopo is making his rounds through the entire Pac-12.

On Monday, California announced the hiring of the former Husky to coach the Bears’ quarterbacks and serve as the team’s passing game coordinator. Tuiasasopo served in the same capacity for UCLA last season, and previously worked alongside Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox at USC and his alma mater.

“It is important that the coaches on our staff have strong connections on the West Coast and Marques certainly has been a fixture in the football world on this side of the country for a long time,” Wilcox said in a statement. “The connections he has made over the years along with his familiarity with the Pac-12 will pay tremendous dividends for us in recruiting. Also, having been a former player he understands the game from the players’ perspective quite well and is enthusiastic on imparting the knowledge he has gained as both a player and young assistant coach to our players.”

Tuisasopo jumped into coaching as a strength and conditioning assistant at Washington in 2009, then moved on-the-field as an intern and later tight ends coach at UCLA.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Cal football family and to be coaching with Justin Wildox again,” Tuiasosopo said. “Justin is a great coach and an even better person. I look forward to working with the new coaching staff that is being put together at Cal and tapping into the program’s rich football history, building off that and bringing championship football back to this great University.”

Tuiasasopo spent four years as a quarterback at Washington, ending his run with an eighth-place finish in the 2000 Heisman Trophy voting, a Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award and a Rose Bowl MVP trophy, leading the Huskies to the No. 3 final AP ranking, which still stands as the program’s highest year-end ranking since their 1991 national championship. He left school as the Huskies’ all-time leader in total offense and become the first college quarterback ever to throw for 300 yards and rush for 200 in the same game.

 

Cal reportedly hires former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to head defense

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 03: Head coach Tim DeRuyter of the Fresno State Bulldogs watches action against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Fresno State 43-10.  (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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California will hire former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to serve as its defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports out Monday.

DeRuyter, of course, was the Bulldogs’ head coach through mid-October, where he was let go after starting with a 1-7 record. Prior to that, he led Fresno State to the 2013 Mountain West championship and shares of the MW West Division crown in 2012 and ’14. (And then Derek Carr graduated.)

A longtime defensive coordinator, DeRuyter previously served in that same post at Ohio, Navy, Nevada, Air Force and Texas A&M.

Gorley writes DeRuyter will be asked to transition the Bears from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment, a task he’s successfully completed in the past. He would take over a defense that finished last season ranking 122nd in yards per play allowed and second-to-last in scoring.

 

Michigan football going to Rome this spring

ROME, ITALY - APRIL 06:  A view of the Colosseum and Roman Forum during the Way Of The Cross procession held by Pope Benedict XVI on Good Friday April 6, 2012 in Rome, Italy.  The traditional Catholic procession on Good Friday recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ahead of Sunday's Easter holiday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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The NCAA is going to shut down the ability to take a football team off campus during spring break starting in August, so Jim Harbaugh is making sure his program gets one more trip squeezed in. This one is going to require a passport.

This April, Harbaugh is taking the Wolverines to Rome for a “week of education and spring drills.” This is a direct response to criticisms Michigan faced when moving spring football practices to Bradenton, Florida last spring, nestled right in ACC and SEC recruiting grounds. The practices at the home of AS Roma, an Italian soccer club. What’s different about this one is the trip will come at the end of the semester instead of over spring break. Harbaugh just found a loophole.

“We were looking to provide our student-athletes with a great educational, cultural and international football experience,” Harbaugh said in a released statement. “I am excited that our student-athletes will be able to take advantage of this amazing educational opportunity, be exposed to another culture, and be ambassadors for the United States and the University of Michigan during our visit to Rome.”

Last week, the NCAA’s Division 1 Council voted to ban off-campus trips over scheduled off days from the academic calendar. But because this trip is not taking place over a spring break, the trip can, in theory, be used every year.

Just think, if Michigan had just gone to Rome last year instead of Florida, perhaps the feathers from the ACC and SEC would not have been so ruffled.

Harbaugh in Rome. This should be fun to follow.

New MLS stadium in San Diego could have plenty of perks for San Diego State football

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 01: A general view of the San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs en route to Chiefs 37-27 win over the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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San Diego State is already locked in to continue playing games in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego through the 2020 season, which may be perfect timing. A move to build a brand new Major League Soccer stadium is projected to open its doors in 2020, and the plan is to have room for San Diego State to share the stadium as well.

As detailed by a report from The San Diego Union-Tribune, FS Investors is an investment group that owns the rights to apply for a MLS franchise in San Diego. While still working out the finer details of their bid, but the company is reportedly planning to purchase the land containing Qualcomm Stadium, demolish the existing stadium and use that land to develop a new venue that could seat between 20,000 and 30,000 fans. At the same time, other land would be set aside in order to reserve for a potential NFL stadium in the event the city makes a bid to lure the National Football League back to the city after the Chargers packed up and left for Los Angeles.

The firm also hopes it can attract developers to add housing and commercial options that will target San Diego State students, and perhaps add to the environment around a soccer and college football stadium for a more enjoyable game day experience for both.

An application for an MLS franchise is due January 31 and the firm hopes to receive approval from City Council without having to rely on a public vote.