Nick Saban

Saban: “I had nothing to do with idea of the 10-second rule”

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While his name has been prominently mentioned as one of what appears to be a small group of coaches in favor of the controversial rule proposal that would somewhat throttle high-octane offenses, Nick Saban has yet to speak publicly on the imbroglio.  Until now.

Prior to speaking at a Georgia Minority Coaches Association event Friday night, the Alabama head coach met with reporters and made it perfectly clear that he “had nothing to do with the idea of the 10-second rule.”  Saban, who was reportedly permitted to speak in front of the NCAA’s Football Rules Committee that forwarded the proposal to the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel for further consideration, added that he doesn’t even “necessarily have an opinion on the 10-second rule” before going on to give his opinion on why the proposal needs further research.

Essentially there are three reasons behind Saban’s call for further research, which some would call nothing more than thinly-veiled support.

The first and most-stressed reason, as the company line goes for those in favor of a proposal that would penalize an offense if it snaps the ball before 10 seconds have run off the play clock, is player safety.  The higher the tempo an offense runs, the theory goes, the more opportunity there is for players — specifically those on the defensive side of the ball — to wear down, thus making them more susceptible to injury.

“When you look at plays that are run, and a team averages 88 plays, and we average 65 at Alabama, that’s 20-something plays more a game over a 12-game season, that adds up to four more games a year that guys have to play,” Saban said in quotes transcribed by al.com‘s Joel Erickson. “I think it’s wear and tear and tougher to prepare players when you have to play against a hurry-up offense because of the way you have to practice.”

Three teams at the FBS level in 2013 — Texas Tech (90.3), BYU (89.9) and Cal (88.7) — averaged more than 88 plays per game per TeamRankings.com.  A total of 20 teams averaged more than 80 per game, while 33 averaged 70 or less.  The Tide’s 65.9 plays per game were 116th (out of 125 teams), with Arkansas and Bret Bielema, a vocal foot-in-the-mouth proponent of the proposal, at 121st with their 64.7 plays per game.

Saban said the 10-second proposal was born out of the committee studying “12 games of three fastball teams: Oregon, Auburn, Texas A&M and I forget the fourth one, it might have been Baylor, I’m not sure.”  That study found the new rule would’ve impacted those teams an average of four times per game, meaning that narrow focus group snapped the ball prior to 10 seconds running off the game clock around four times per game.  Saban used that limited data to once again shift the focus to the player-safety issue.

“I don’t think anybody was trying to change what they do or how they do it,” Saban said of the Fast Four, “but the fact that they can get on the line and snap it quick, you can’t substitute. All right. So, that becomes an eventual player safety issue and I think if you ask the guys philosophically, a lot of them that run the offense, they say we want to wear the defense down and get the defense tired. Well, you get the defensive players tired they are going to be more susceptible to getting injured.”

That study by the committee and the rule’s supposed limited impact on uptempo offenses is rather skewed, however, as Baylor, which was fifth in plays per game, was the only one of the four that finished in the Top 30 in the country in that category.  Noted “fastball” teams Oregon, Texas A&M and Auburn were 39th (76.6), 61st (73.8) and 62nd (73.8), respectively.

Most of the opponents of the new rule proposal, including all four of those teams used by the committee, have cited no hard scientific data to support that this is a player-safety issue.  Saban, though, had an answer for that as well.

“Even though  there is no scientific data to prove this, there was a study at Virgina Tech in 2003,” Saban said. “All right, they did sub-concussive head traumas on eight players for 10 games. Those players played 61 plays a game and had 18 sub-concussive hits in a game, so they played 61 plays a game for 10 games.

“So, I’m saying if you’re playing nose guard, three-technique, defensive end, offensive tackle, offensive guard, if you played 88 plays in a game, there’s no scientific evidence but there is some logic that says the guy would have more hits. So, that’s a player safety issue that I think people need to sorta look at.”

In addition to the player-safety issue, Saban also cited officials being allowed to dictate the tempo of the game — he lauded the NFL for allowing its officials to control the pace of the game, not coaches — and “any competitive imbalance created by the pace of play,” the latter of which most people feel is the crux of Saban’s support for the proposal call for additional research.

The NCAA Rules Oversight Panel is expected to vote yea or nay on the proposal this coming week, with most predicting the proposal will be shot down.  At the very least, the proposal will be tabled for further discussion in 2015 as it’s not an issue of player safety and thus not up for immediate implementation.

I think this is more of a style of play issue than a player safety (issue),” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said at the same event. “I think if you could teach offensive players to play six plays in a row, you can teach defensive players to play six plays in a row.”

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield takes home second straight Burlsworth Award

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.

The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.

The old BCS computers would have served you the same College Football Playoff lineup

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  The official Bowl Championship Series logo is seen painted on the turf in the end zone as the Virginia Tech Hokies play against the Michigan Wolverines during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 3, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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If there is one common criticism of the College Football Playoff model it is that it is left up to humans to determine who should play for the national championship. Bias and allegiances can interfere with the decision-making, unless you believe there really is no bias within the board room when the committee gets together in Dallas every week. Some would prefer the playoff model use some sort of computer system, perhaps one similar to the makeup of the old BCS computer. Well, the BCS computers would have come to the same conclusion for the College Football Playoff if it was used.

The seeding may have been slightly different, with Ohio State staying ahead of Clemson, but the matchups would have been the same as this year’s playoff. Alabama would be the top seed and face Pac-12 champion Washington and Ohio State would have faced Clemson. The Buckeyes would have been the “home” team, although the 2-3 matchup really means nothing other than who gets to decide what uniform color to wear and which team calls heads or tails at the coin flip. Of course, under the old BCS model, there would be just two teams selected to play for the national championship, and that would paired the last two national champions against each other; Alabama and Ohio State. Clemson was the second-ranked team in the final College Football Playoff ranking, with Ohio state finishing third.

It is also worth recognizing the BCS computers would also have awarded Western Michigan the highest-ranking among Group of Five schools, thus sending them to the Cotton Bowl. Western Michigan also would have qualified for a spot in the BCS lineup with the No. 12 ranking in the computer model. Finishing in the top 12 qualified the champion from either Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt for an automatic BCS berth.

Forever a Tiger, LSU RB Leonard Fournette declares for NFL Draft

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 38-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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In one of the least surprising announcements from the world of college football, LSU running back Leonard Fournette has announced he will be heading to the NFL in 2017. Fournette announced with a statement on Twitter he will play in LSU’s bowl game matchup against Louisville and then begin preparing for the NFL.

In his statement, Fournette said he chose to make this decision now as a way to avoid potential distractions leading up to LSU’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl appearance.

Fournette has rushed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns this season in just seven games. Injuries got in the way of Fournette’s big hopes for the 2016 season after rushing for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago. Fournette was among the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites. Fournette was a First-Team All-SEC pick in 2015 and a consensus All-American. could the New Orleans native be drafted by the New Orleans Saints? That would be something.

He will now be largely considered one of the top potential draft picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, even though he will head to the NFL coming off some injury concerns and the stock for running backs at the next level has trended downward.

That said, there are going to be some fantastic running backs out there to draft next spring. Fournette joins a running back class that includes Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, and D'Onta Foreman.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  The Miami Hurricanes kick off to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.