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.”

Lamar Jackson, OU tandem headline list of five Heisman finalists

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 22:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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The Heisman Trophy finalists were announced in a made-for-awkward-television moment during ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown on sight from MetLife Stadium. The Heisman trust revealed a list of five finalists including: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook.

Described my some (read: yours truly) as Allen Iverson in cleats, Jackson’s slippery explosiveness led to 4,928 yards of total offense and a nation-leading 51 touchdowns responsible for. He is regarded as the overwhelming favorite to win the stiffarm trophy.

Mayfield has thrown for 3,669 yards with 38 touchdowns against eight interceptions. His 197.75 quarterback rating is on pace to break the FBS single-season record, and he pilots an offense that ranks third nationally in scoring and yards per play. Mayfield’s efforts helped Oklahoma win its second straight Big 12 title and complete the first 9-0 run in the league’s 6-year round-robin era.

Peppers is the swiss army knife of a threat for the Wolverines. He ranks second on Michigan’s elite defense in tackles and tackles for loss while also returning punts and kicks and serving as a running back on offense.

Watson has led Clemson to back-to-back ACC championships and College Football Playoff appearances while firing 37 touchdown passes and throwing for 3,914 yards on the year.

Mayfield’s top target, Westbrook recorded 74 receptions for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year. Westbrook’s inclusion makes Oklahoma the first team to send teammates to New York since Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush did the same for USC in 2005. They’re just the fifth set of teammates to do so overall (Leinart and Bush did so twice.)

That’s also the last time the SEC did not place a player in the top five vote-getters.

The Heisman Trophy ceremony will be held Saturday night in New York.

Army breaking out WWII-themed uniforms for Navy game

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 12:  The Army Black Knights sing their alma mater near their fan section after the game against the Navy Midshipmen at Lincoln Financial Field on December 12, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Navy Midshipmen defeated the Army Black Knights 21-17.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Army will carry with it a 14-game losing streak against Navy when it takes the M&T Bank Stadium field on Saturday. But the Black Knights will do so in some some great uniforms.

The academy on Monday unveiled the special uniforms they’ll wear against Navy that honor the accomplishments of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.

Known as the All-Americans, the 82nd Airborne was “[h]ighly trained and highly disciplined, the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne were asked to spearhead the invasions of Italy, Normandy, and Holland. With little to no reinforcements or relief in the most adverse conditions, their physical and mental toughness was pushed to the limits. Their unwavering brotherhood and intense dedication to success, ultimately led to mission accomplishment.”

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While Navy has won 14 straight and 15 of the past 16, four of the fast five games have been decided by six points or less, including last season’s 21-17 decision.

Knowing the recent history of this game, expect a response from Navy at some point this week.

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.