WHO: 11-1 Alabama (SEC) vs. 10-2 Oklahoma (Big 12)
WHAT: Sugar Bowl (80th Year)
WHERE: Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
WHEN: Jan. 2, 2014 at 8:30 p.m. ET
WHY: How much energy will Alabama have for this game after coming so close to playing for the SEC championship and a chance to play for their third straight BCS championship? That is the big question for the Crimson Tide, a program well aware of the perils that can come with a lack of interest in the Sugar Bowl. The last time Alabama played in the Sugar Bowl the Crimson Tide were upset by an inspired Utah team. That 2008 Alabama team was one win away form playing for the BCS championship but a loss to No. 2 Florida dropped No. 1 Alabama three spots in the polls and sent them to New Orleans to play the BCS busting Utah. Alabama dug an early 21-0 hole in the first quarter and was unable to climb out of it.
This Alabama team is on a different level from that past Alabama team though. That was Nick Saban‘s first true winning team since taking over the Alabama program. Now Alabama is a proven winner who knows how to prepare for all types of game situations. A lackluster start will not be allowed by Saban this time around as they hook up with Oklhaoma for just the fifth time in history. The Sooners will play the somewhat unfamiliar role of heavy underdog in the Sugar Bowl as well. Although they did not win the Big 12 championship, Bob Stoops and the Sooners are looking to carry the Big 12 banner after Baylor lost to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.
Given the history of verbal exchanges by Stoops and Saban this game has plenty of subplot behind it, but when it comes to X’s and O’s it looks as though Alabama has the advantage everywhere you look. The quarterback situation is much more stable for Alabama with Heisman finalist and Maxwell Award winner AJ McCarron. McCarron makes few mistakes and could benefit from a standout performance in his final game since he will skip out on the Senior Bowl. The duo of Blake Bell and Trevor Knight will give Oklahoma some options but Alabama’s defense can be difficult to fool. Auburn managed to find some holes but unless Bell or Knight transform in to Johnny Manziel it should not be expected either have a great night. The runnings games may be even between Alabama’s TJ Yeldon and Oklahoma’s Brennan Clay, which means this game will be determined mostly in the trenches. This is where Alabama’s advantages come in to play on offense.
If Oklahoma can avoid falling behind early on, the Sooners have a chance to hang with Alabama for a while, but the Tide should manage to pull away in the second half.
PREDICTION: Alabama 34, Oklahoma 17
LSU has certainly invested in its coaching staff, now under the leadership of Ed Orgeron. New details about the contract for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada reveal LSU’s newest coordinator will be paid $1.5 million per year over the course of his three-year deal, according to The Advocate.
Canada came to LSU after serving as offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh under Pat Narduzzi. Canada’s contract details at Pitt have not been revealed or recorded in USA Today’s annual database of coaching salaries, but it is very likely he was not getting close to this kind of money at Pitt. Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis was the nation’s highest-paid assistant coach in college football last season, according to the USA Today salary database. No other coach hit the $1.5 million mark, although Clemson’s Brent Venables was close ($1.43 million), as was supposed LSU target Lane Kiffin at Alabama ($1.4 million). Canada was a Broyles Award finalist this past season, so he has earned a chance to be among the highest-paid coaches in the game given his recent success.
LSU is also paying top dollar to its defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda. Aranda was the nation’s fourth highest-paid assistant coach last season with a contract paying $1.315 million in 2016. Aranda has since been given a raise from LSU and is earning a reported $1.8 million per year under his new three-year deal. LSU was paying Cam Cameron $1.211 million last season as well. Cameron was fired during the 2016 season along with former head coach Les Miles.
Having the best assistant coaches money can buy is always a nice perk, and LSU will hope paying their coordinators better than any other assistant coach will help Orgeron take the Tigers back to the top of the SEC. Paying top dollar brings pressure to win though, and if LSU struggles to take those next steps then we could be right back to square one in a matter of time.
Expect top assistants to continue to be paid handsomely moving forward though. Media rights deals and revenue shares from such deals pays well, and is a big reason why LSU has been able to afford such high assistant contracts. Canada’s base pay from LSU is set at $500,000 but the additional $1 million comes in part from media rights compensation. This is why schools in the SEC and Big Ten will likely be able to stay ahead of the pack in the coaching game more often than not, and why some assistant coaches may find it more lucrative to remain a coordinator at a program rather than take on a head coaching gig at some other spots.
The NCAA’s Board of Directors is expected to approve a proposal that will allow college football programs to add a 10th assistant to the coaching staff. The proposal has received the support of the Division 1 Council in this week’s NCAA meetings, which was to be expected. There appears to be nothing else to stand in the way of passing the proposal and expanding the coaching staff at football programs across the country.
There appears to be a widespread show of support for the addition of a coach to the staff from head coaches, which makes sense. With many programs adding on special assistants as analysts, some programs would benefit from being able to promote an analyst to a coaching role and get them more involved in the program. Just within the last week, Alabama hired Mike Locksley to a full-time coaching role after he had been helping the program out as an analyst. Alabama also picked up Steve Sarkisian as an analyst and promoted him to offensive coordinator following the awkwardly timed decision to push Lane Kiffin on his way out the door to take the FAU head coaching job.
The concern is this would lead to a greater divide between the haves and the have-nots in college football, as the addition of an extra coach will increase the payroll. This is hardly a concern for programs like Alabama and Ohio State, but perhaps more of a concern for a program like UMass or UAB (yes, UAB is back this year), for example.
Regardless, Donald Trump will happily take credit for the creation of potentially 128 new jobs in college football.
The Division 1 Council did scrap the idea of having an early signing period in the summer but there does still appear to be momentum for an early signing period in December. Another proposal receiving support from the council include the option for high school seniors to make official visits starting April 1 until the end of June (official visits currently cannot take place until September 1). The Council has also discussed organizing a 14-week season to play 12 games, thus providing two bye weeks for each team and push the start of the season into August.
Colorado has a new defensive coordinator, but that means Kentucky is now shopping the market. DJ Eliot will leave his job as defensive coordinator at Kentucky to take on the same role at Colorado. The news was first reported by FootballScoop.com and The Courier-Journal has followed that initial report with confirmation.
Eliot has ben Kentucky’s defensive cooridnator for the past four seasons and leaves Mark Stoops in need of hiring a new coordinator after years having Eliot working with him. It remains to be seen where Kentucky will look for their new defensive coordinator, but it is worth noting that two current assistants — defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale and linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Matt House — have prior defensive coordinator experience.
Colorado had a vacancy to fill at defensive coordinator after losing Jim Leavitt after two seasons to Oregon to be a part of the new staff working under Willie Taggart.
As Auburn looks to fill its vacancy on the football staff at offensive coordinator (previously filled by UConn-bound Rhett Lashlee), it appears that search will no longer include Oklahoma State’s Mike Yurcich. Yurcich, according to reports out of Stillwater, has pulled his name off the table for the Auburn job.
Yurcich reportedly interviewed with Auburn this week. Other candidates supposedly in the mix for the job include former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey.
If Yurcich is to be the guy, Auburn will hope he can bring some of the same offensive production he ha shad at Oklahoma State with him. Oklahoma State had the nation’s 14th-best total offensive production in 2016 with an average of 494.8 yards per game (Auburn was 42nd with 440.8 ypg) and the 17th-best scoring average with 38.6 points per game (Auburn averaged 31.2 ppg). Of course, the Big 12 is not exactly known for playing solid defense, at least that is how the narrative goes, but the Tigers could benefit from a spark on the offensive side of the football in 2017.