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.”

Second-half dominance powers No. 10 A&M past No. 17 Arkansas, 45-24

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Trevor Knight #8 of the Texas A&M Aggies runs for a touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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No. 10 Texas A&M grabbed a late touchdown run from quarterback Trevor Knight in the first half and shut down No. 17 Arkansas in the second half of a 45-24 victory in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Aggies shut down the Razorbacks in the second half and scored 28 points on offense to improve to 4-0 and head into October thinking about making a run at the SEC West title (and potentially for real this time).

With the game tied at 17-17, Arkansas put together a draining 89-yard drive on 19 plays, but it was the Texas A&M defense that held strong down by the goal line. Just as they had done twice in the first half, Texas A&M prevented Arkansas from punching the football across the goal line, this time with a fourth-down stand. Two plays later, Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight unloaded a deep ball to Josh Reynolds racing down the right sideline. The ball was placed perfectly for Reynolds and he let his speed take care of the rest on a 92-yard touchdown drive. It was quite the momentum swing and the Aggies did not look back.

Texas A&M scored a touchdown after forcing Arkansas to punt on the ensuing possession and took advantage of a short field from the 15-yard line after an Arkansas fumble. Trayveon Williams did the honors on the first touchdown with a 33-yard scamper and Christian Kirk got his hands on a pass from Knight after the Razorbacks’ fumble.

Four games into the season and there appears to be enough evidence to suggest this Texas A&M defense has improved, and that helps make Texas A&M a formidable player in the SEC West moving forward. Is it ready to take down Alabama? Probably not, but the Aggies have the look of the second-best team in the SEC behind the defending national champions. Arkansas still has the potential to play spoiler with anyone on their schedule though, including Alabama.

Knight was a machine for the Aggies, ending his night with 225 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, a game-high 157 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Arkansas quarterback passed for 371 yards and two scores, but took a beating all night.

Texas A&M is 4-0 for the third straight season under Kevin Sumlin. The last time Texas A&M went 4-0 in three straight seasons was 1939-1941. It is also the third straight undefeated September for Texas A&M, which was last achieved from 1997 through 1999. The hot seat talk has been nowhere to be heard in College Station this season.

Arkansas gets a likely breather next week when they return home to host Alcorn State. A home game against Alabama looms after that. Texas A&M will stay in SEC play next week when they head to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are coming off a 17-10 loss at Kentucky.

Seth Russell’s 4 TD night vs. Oklahoma State helps No. 16 Baylor remain undefeated

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Seth Russell #17 of the Baylor Bears looks for an open receiver against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first quarter at McLane Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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In a game that was delayed over an hour by weather, featured a bizarre coaching decision and over 1,000 yards of combined offense, No. 16 Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) managed to pull away and remain one of two remaining undefeated teams in the Big 12 with a 35-24 victory at home over Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12). West Virgina is also undefeated after beating BYU earlier in the day.

Baylor quarterback Seth Russell passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns in the win, and he also led the ground attack with 65 rushing yards on 10 carries. Ishmael Zamora, in his first game back from a three-game suspension for beating his dog, caught eight of the passes from Russell for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Platt also hauled in a 100-yard day with a pair of touchdowns.

While the winning formula for Baylor typically revolves around the offense, Oklahoma State coughed the ball up four times, although they did pick up 30 first downs and run 100 plays of offense as well. It was far from pretty for Baylor, with seven penalties and giving up 28 first downs, but the Bears will take it and enjoy the undefeated start to the season regardless.

Baylor head coach Jim Grobe did make one puzzling coaching decision late in the third quarter when he kept the offense on the field to try to pick up a first down on fourth and one from Baylor’s 24-yard line. You read that correctly. They went for it from the Baylor 24-yard line, with a lead mind you, in the third quarter. Oklahoma State stuffed the play for no gain and the offense was unable to capitalize. That may have cost Oklahoma State, and it bailed Grobe out for an absolute bonehead coaching decision.

But the defensive stop was just the start. Oklahoma State’s defense could not hold Baylor down and the Bears put together a 99-yard touchdown drive, with Seth Russell finding Chris Platt from 15 yards out on third and goal. It served as the knockout blow from the Bears offense, who had four touchdown drives of at least 73 yards on the night.

Baylor will be on the road next week for more Big 12 competition. The Bears hit the road to take on Iowa State for an early kickoff next Saturday. Oklahoma State will be home next week for a meeting with the Texas Longhorns. Texas will be coming off a bye week after losing on the road at Cal last weekend.

With seven more, Lamar Jackson has more TDs than all but ONE FBS team

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) awaits the snap during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Huntington, W. Va., Saturday Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Walter Scriptunas II)
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With the final games of the first month of the 2016 season being quickly put to bed, we can officially hand the September Heisman Trophy to Lamar Jackson.  In an utter and absolute landslide.

The Louisville quarterback’s ridiculous, video game-like month has officially come to an end, with Jackson accounting for seven touchdowns in a 59-28 win over Marshall in Huntington.  The true sophomore threw for five touchdowns and ran for another two in a performance that did nothing but show how remarkably easy the game is for Jackson right now even as he “struggled” early on.

With this showing, Jackson has now accounted for 25 touchdowns on the season — 13 passing, 12 rushing.

Remarkably, Jackson now has more touchdowns individually than all but one team — aside from his own — playing at the FBS level.  That one team?  Michigan, with 28.  USF, with 25 as a team that played this week, is tied with Jackson as an individual.

I guess you could technically add an asterisk to the “one team” theme as Texas Tech (25), Ohio State (23) and Miami (21) were all on byes this weekend.  And I’m also going under the assumption that Washington (19 entering Week 4) won’t get beyond 25, even as they are currently tied 14-14 with Arizona at halftime.

Still, the numbers Jackson is putting up are historic and epic, and that was even before he added Nos. 6 and 7.

I have no clue how Jackson will close out the season, but I do know that, at the moment, there’s the Cardinals’ signal-caller and then there’s everybody else when it comes to the 2016 Heisman race.  Just as it was exactly a week ago.

Thrilling comeback gives No. 7 Stanford a wild win over UCLA

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Francis Owusu #6 of the Stanford Cardinal fumbles after a hit from Tahaan Goodman #21 and Adarius Pickett #6 of the UCLA Bruins during the second quarter at Rose Bowl on September 24, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Death. Taxes. Stanford over UCLA.

Cardinal head coach David Shaw ran his record to a perfect 7-0 against the Bruins in thrilling fashion on Saturday night thanks to a 22-13 comeback victory at the Rose Bowl.

Trailing 13-9 with just two minutes left in the game, the Cardinal marched 70 yards in 101 seconds to take an improbable lead after failing to score a touchdown until their final drive.

Quarterback Ryan Burns was behind most of the yardage on what would be the game-winning drive, going 5-of-8 to finish off the Bruins by lofting a perfectly thrown fade into the hands of 6-foot-3 receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside near the corner of the end zone. Burns finished with just 137 yards through the air on the night and tossed an interception in a middling performance but came up clutch for the first moment of his career.

Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey had an unusually effective but quiet night a few months after setting a few records at the same venue in January. He had a healthy 5.3 yards per carry for the game and led the team with  165 all-purpose yards but only had one play over 10 yards all night.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen on the other hand, was the offense for the Bruins considering they could only muster 2.3 yards a carry on the ground. The sophomore signal-caller finished with 248 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t quite pull off the win over the one team that has become a bit of a nemesis to Jim Mora and company in Westwood.

Perhaps fittingly — as if to almost twist the knife into another excruciating loss to their Bay Area rivals — Rosen was sacked on the final play of the game and fumbled, which was then returned by linebacker Joey Alfieri for a touchdown that was of plenty of interest to certain folks up the highway in Las Vegas.

The improbable victory for Stanford keeps alive their College Football Playoff hopes for another week and sets up a huge showdown next Friday at Washington in what looks like the Pac-12 game of the year.