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

Brady Hoke addresses how defensive goals have changed in college football

New Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke meets with members of the media at the Hatfield-Dowling Complex near Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Hoke is a former head coach at Michigan. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP
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Brady Hoke is looking forward to getting back in coaching this season as Oregon’s defensive coordinator. A year away from the game from the coaching point of view after being let go by Michigan, Hoke is taking on a big task with revamping Oregon’s defense. With the offenses Hoke will see in the Pac-12, he knows the defensive goals that have been regular staples for decades in the past will no longer be what he believes to be a realistic goal.

It used to be the goal was 13 points or less. That was the standard everybody had,” Hoke said this week as he met with the Oregon media for the first time since being hired. “The style of offenses have changed. You can also see defenses evolving for the style of offense. If you’re going to play Stanford, your team goals for that week may be a little different, defensively, because of the style of offense.

“When you’re going to play Arizona, your points per possession become more important than holding [Stanford running back and Heisman Trophy finalist] Christian McCaffrey under 100 yards rushing. You have to be realistic for your players.”

It seems as though Hoke is prepared to give in on a few defensive goals he has lived by for years in hopes of achieving a larger vision with Oregon’s defense. Considering how much Oregon’s defense needs to improve. The Ducks ranked 117th in total defense in 2015. The lowlight of the season had to be the Alamo Bowl meltdown that saw a 31-point lead against TCU end up with a loss to the Horned Frogs. The question is what will be the goal for the Oregon defense in 2016, and how realistic will it be?

“If you set unrealistic goals — we want challenging goals, but unrealistic goals, that’s not fair to those kids,” Hoke said.

Helmet sticker to CoachingSearch.com.

Colorado promotes Darian Hagan to RB coach, shuffles offensive coaching duties

Handlers lead Ralphie, the mascot of Colorado, around the field before Colorado hosts Southern California in an NCAA football game in Boulder, Colo., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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One of key members of Colorado’s 1990 national championship team is moving up on the coaching staff in Boulder. Darian Hagan, who played quarterback for the Buffs in 1990 and won three Big Eight titles when conferences actually had numbers reflective of the number of teams in their conference, has been promoted to the role of running backs coach. The school announced Hagan’s promotion among a couple of accompanying coaching staff changes on Saturday. Hagan had been serving as a director of player development.

For Hagan, this will be the second time he has held a role as an assistant coach on the Colorado sideline. He was an offensive assistant in 2005 under Gary Barnett and he was a holdover when Dan Hawkins was named head coach in 2006. Hagan moved to the role of director of player development in 2011 under Jon Embree and he continued in that role under  head coach Mike MacIntyre.

“Darian brings a lot of pride and passion to our football program with his history here, and also brings expertise to our running backs,” MacIntyre said. “In shifting our offensive staff assignments a little bit, he will give us another dimension in our running game and working with our running backs.

As Hagan gets moved into the coaching staff, MacIntyre adjusting the coaching responsibilities on the offensive side of the staff to make room. Klayton Adams, who was coaching the running backs and tight ends, will now coach the offensive line. Gary Bernardi will take on the coaching duties with the tight ends and fullbacks after coaching the offensive line last season.

 

Bowling Green WR Gehrig Dieter transferring to Alabama

Bowling Green wide receiver Gehrig Dieter makes a reception for a touchdown against Georgia Southern during the first half of the GoDaddy Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP)
Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP
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Alabama will be adding a 1,000-yard wide receiver by way of a graduate transfer from the MAC. Gehrig Dieter will transfer from Bowling Green to Alabama in 2016, and he will be available to play right away. Dieter announced the news of his transfer to Alabama on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon.

Dieter is scheduled to graduate from Bowling Green in May, which means he will be a graduate transfer. This makes him eligible to play right away next fall at any other FBS program with a spot available. That FBS program just so happens to be the defending national champions. With freshman Calvin Ridley breaking out for the Crimson Tide in 2015 en route to a national championship, it looks as though Alabama will have quite a 1-2 punch at the wide receiver position. However, there could be a minor snag preventing Dieter from playing this season. Because this will be Dieter’s third four-year football program, he will need a waiver approved by the NCAA in order to be cleared to play this season. Dieter previously played at SMU before heading to Bowling Green.

Dieter was Bowling Green’s second-leading receiver in 015 with 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns. Together with Roger Lewis (1,544 yards, 16 touchdowns), and quarterback Matt Johnson (4,946 yards, 46 touchdowns), Bowling Green had a dynamic offense that now faces a bit of an uphill battle heading into the spring. With Dieter transferring and Johnson graduating to the NFL and head coach Dino Babers taking a job at Syracuse, Bowling Green could be set to take a step back next fall.

Johnny Lattner, Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer, dies at 83

GPHR 45/1638:  Football player John Lattner, posed action diving in uniform inside the Stadium for Football Guide, May 1952.
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The Notre Dame football family lost a legend today. Johnny Lattner, winner of the 1953 Heisman Trophy, passed away at the age of 83 after battling lung cancer.

In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy in 1953, becoming Notre Dame’s fourth in program history, Lattner also received the Maxwell award in both the 1952 and 1953 seasons. He was also named a consensus All-American in 1952 and 1953. The Chicago native played halfback for the Fighting Irish under Frank Leahy from 1950 through 1953. The “bread and butter ball carrier” went on to be a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a knee injury suffered during a two-year stint in the United States Air Force cut his pro career short. Lattner went on to dabble in some coaching at the high school level as well as at the University of Denver. He remained the head coach at Denver until the school shut down the football program in 1961.

Lattner was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.