Nick Saban

CFT Predicts: Alabama-Auburn

22 Comments

“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

Laremy Tunsil: ‘I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins’

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #13 overall by the Miami Dolphins 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)
Getty Images
1 Comment

For those expecting Laremy Tunsil to expound on Thursday night’s revelation, you were sorely disappointed.

Friday evening, following a strange hiccup that involved a purported allergic reaction, Tunsil was introduced to the Miami media as the first-round pick of the Dolphins.  Not surprisingly, Tunsil was asked about the events of last night, from the gas-mask bong hit to the hacked Instagram account displaying damning text messages that could leave Ole Miss in further NCAA hot water to seemingly acknowledging in the affirmative during a post-draft press conference that he had received money from a Rebels staffer.

Not surprisingly, the sequel, Tunsil wasn’t touching last night’s developments.

“I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins,” Tunsil responded in one variation or another when asked a handful of times about the video and potential NCAA issues.

In the aftermath of the allegations and admission, Ole Miss released a statement in which the university vowed to “aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”

UMass chancellor scoffs at talk of disbanding football

UMass football
Associated Press
Leave a comment

This month we’ve already seen Eastern Michigan emphatically push back against faculty-fueled talk of moving the football program down to the FCS level or disbanding it completely.  Now it’s a former MAC member doing some pushing of its own on a similar effort.

Thursday, the faculty senate at UMass urged officials at the university to vote on a resolution “to end Division I football (Football Bowl Subdivision) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and either move to a different division or discontinue NCAA football altogether.”  That blast served as the latest salvo in a nearly four-year effort by the senate to rid itself and its university of the sport.

As has been the case in previous efforts, they appear to have failed miserably as the motion was defeated by a 2-1 margin.  Saying “[t]his is now the third time in my four years that they have brought up a motion and have not succeeded,” chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy went on to praise the direction of a program that is now a football independent after leaving the MAC following the 2015 season.

I think the program is in good shape and (headed) in the right direction,” he said. “This was simply a small group of senators who have been carrying on this agenda for some time. And they’re not getting the support they need. …

“I can’t control what the Faculty Senate does. It’s a waste of this important body’s time, in my opinion, to keep bringing up this issue. We have lots of issues on the curriculum and we have lots of issues on our future planning and so forth. So I think the academic senate’s time should be more wisely spent than debating something over and over again.”

Like their former conference counterparts at EMU, UMass has struggled mightily of late.  Since becoming full-fledged members of the FBS in 2012, the Minutemen have posted just eight wins versus 40 losses.

Despite those struggles, “we have strong support from the alumni base and our own student body,” Subbaswamy said, “which we’re going to build even more once we start playing even more games on campus.”

FCS LB Ray Lewis III, son of ‘Canes legend, charged with sexual assault

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.07.59 PM
Coastal Carolina athletics
9 Comments

A former member of the Miami Hurricanes football program — and the son of a U legend — is facing some rather significant allegations at his current football home.

WMBF-TV in Conway, SC, is reporting that an arrest warrant was issued for Coastal Carolina cornerback Ray Lewis III in connection to claims that he had sexually assaulted two women.  The FCS player turned himself into authorities earlier Friday and was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The alleged incidents that led to the charges occurred in January.  From the television station’s report:

On Saturday, January 23, Conway Police officer responded to a local hospital, where the victims told police they were sexually assaulted at an apartment in the 2200 block of Technology Drive, according to a news release from the police department. Detectives were called to the hospital to take over the investigation.

Medical reports, victim statements, witness statements, and lab statements were presented to the solicitor’s office, and warrants were obtained for 20-year-old Ray Lewis III.

The arrest warrant alleges that Lewis did engage in sexual battery with an 18-year-old female with the knowledge that the victim was incapacitated and/or physically helpless from the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

Ray Lewis IIIThe 20-year-old Lewis, the son of UM Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, spent two seasons at his father’s alma mater without ever playing a down before transferring to Coastal Carolina in January of 2015.  In 2015 as a redshirt sophomore, the younger Lewis played in 12 games for the Chanticleers.

Suffice to say, he has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.

Coastal Carolina, incidentally, will be making the move from the FCS to the FBS level for the 2017 season.  It was announced in September of last year that the Chanticleers will join the Sun Belt Conference for football beginning that season.

A Travone Valentine return to LSU in 2016 now a possibility

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 10:  Mike VI, mascot of the Louisiana State University Tigers, during pregame warmups before the game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Back in January, Travonte Valentine was hoping Les Miles would give him another shot at a playing career at LSU. Specifically, Valentine was hoping that he’d get another shot at being a Tiger in 2017.

Not only does it appear Miles is ready to welcome the defensive lineman back, but that welcome could come a year earlier than expected. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Currently enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Valentine was expected to become a 2017 prospect, but NCAA rules may allow him to suit up for LSU in 2016, according to numerous sources with knowledge of Valentine’s academic situation.

Valentine and other sources have confirmed that LSU has checked with its compliance department about what it would take for him to enroll this fall. Valentine, who is currently in good academic standing, has to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, while completing the required number of course hours to qualify. The Tigers are taking a conservative approach to the situation, given the history between both parties, but multiple sources said the program is open to the idea if Valentine maintains his current course, and compliance decides that the transfer would meet NCAA guidelines.

Should Valentine ultimately return to Baton Rouge, it’d be the continuation of a lengthy — and bumpy — odyssey.

After signing with the Tigers in February of 2014, Valentine dealt with NCAA Clearinghouse issues — the player said another SEC program was the root cause — that forced him to miss the start of summer camp his true freshman season. While he was ultimately cleared to practice, he was not permitted to play in any games because of the lingering academic issues.

Then in April of last year, head coach Les Miles confirmed that Valentine had been suspended, with the specific reason being, again, academics.  At the time of his departure from the program, it was reported that Valentine, in addition to the academic issues, had failed multiple drug tests.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida. He had been expected to be an immediate contributor to LSU’s line rotation.