Nick Saban

Tide on 2015 schedule hole: ‘Right now we’d take anybody’

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The 2014 season has yet to even kick off, and Alabama’s athletic director already has one eye planted firmly on 2015.  Or, more specifically, the glaring hole in the Tide’s 2015 schedule.

Alabama currently has Wisconsin, Louisiana-Lafayette and, reportedly, an FCS opponent for that season and… well, that’s it.  Thanks to the SEC opting to remain at an eight-game conference schedule, the Tide is desperately seeking a fourth non-conference opponent for 2015.

“We’ve called everybody we know,” AD Bill Battle told CBSSports.com. “Right now we’d take anybody.”

Presumably that “anybody” would include a second FCS opponent, although, with the new College Football Playoff set to commence this season and strength of schedule expected to play a part in it, the program would likely prefer to avoid that particular pastry if at all possible.

Of the 115 teams that will play at the FBS level in 2015 — we’re excluding the 14-team SEC for obvious reasons — less than 40 would be able to accommodate the Tide’s scheduling Hail Mary.  With that in mind, below are the 10 FBS conferences — and independents — and the teams that have openings on their 2015 schedules:

AAC: East Carolina, Houston, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, UCF, UConn, USF
ACC: Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Wake Forest
Big 12: none
Big Ten: Penn State
Conference USA: Charlotte, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Rice
Independents: BYU
MAC: Bowling Green, Buffalo,Central Michigan, Western Michigan
MWC: Air Force, Colorado State, Hawaii, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State
Pac-12: Arizona, Stanford
Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas State

It’s highly unlikely that any of the teams in the Power Five conferences would jump at the opportunity to play the Tide as they all have games already scheduled against the power leagues, just as it would be unlikely UA would look at a game from that group with Wisconsin already on the schedule.  If you take that as gospel, the field of possibilities is sliced to less than 30 at the FBS level.

Of that remaining group, 15 already have two games scheduled against Power Five conferences.  Those from non-Power Five conferences are, normally, loathe to schedule more than two of those types of games.  In fact, just five schools — Central Michigan, Hawaii, Troy, UT-San Antonio, Western Kentucky — have three games against the Power Five on tap for 2015.

That would seemingly leave a pool of just 10 teams that might be open to facing Alabama: Houston (Louisville), UCF (South Carolina), Charlotte (none), FIU (Indiana), Air Force (Michigan State), New Mexico (Arizona State), Louisiana-Lafayette (BCS team TBA), Texas State (Florida State), Tulsa (Oklahoma) and UConn (none).

BYU would seem like an option, although the Cougars are looking for another home game that season and, as the Salt Lake Tribune writes, “there’s no way on God’s green earth that Alabama would agree to travel to Provo.”

So, yes, it appears that, one, the Tide’s AD has quite the Battle on his hands and, two, whoever ends up becoming UA’s 12th game will likely realize quite the financial windfall for its athletic department.

One final note: Alabama and Colorado State announced in 2012 that it had scheduled a two-game series, both in Tuscaloosa, for the 2013 season as well as either 2015 or 2017.  Why 2015 is not an option for CSU is something we’re attempting to have answered through official channels, although the fact that CSU also has Power Five games against Colorado and Minnesota — on the road — on its 2015 schedule could very well explain that part of the equation.

UPDATED 6:26 p.m. ET: According to TideNation.com, Alabama is in discussions with Southern Miss about filling out the former’s 2015 schedule.

The only problem with that?  Southern Miss’ non-conference schedule is already filled that year: home games against Mississippi State (9/5) and BYU (10/17), road games vs. Appalachian State (9/19) and Nebraska (9/26).  The Conference USA school would have to drop one of those four games, and it would seem very likely that the home games are untouchables — unless UA offered a guarantee above the $1.4 million payout Southern Miss is getting this year for its trip to face the Tide in Tuscaloosa.

The most likely game to be lopped off the Golden Eagles’ slate is App. State.  Not only would it be the lesser of the buyouts — which UA may pick up anyway for the favor they’d be doing — but it also coincides with an open date on the Tide’s 2015 calendar.

Local Auburn man arrested after setting Toomer’s Corner oak tree on fire

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Police have identified and arrested a 29-year-old Auburn, Ala. man after he allegedly set fire to one of the oak trees at the famous Toomer’s Corner.

Fans traditionally celebrate a Tigers victory by “rolling” the trees with toilet paper and did so once again on Saturday night following an 18-13 victory over LSU. However, video surveillance showed a suspect lighting some of the paper on fire, setting the tree ablaze as he walked away.

The Auburn city police department, in a release obtained by USA Today, stated that “witnesses at Toomer’s Corner identified a suspect, who was immediately detained and taken into custody by police on an unrelated charge of public intoxication.” Several reports identified the suspect as Jochen Wiest.

Firefighters quickly responded to the fire and extinguished the burning tree but university officials are still evaluating the damage to the oaks.

“From the ground we can easily see damage to the leaves and base of the tree. It is significant,” Professor of Horticulture Gary Keever said in a statement released by the school. “I expect the foliage will continue to drop. The full extent of damage may not be known for several weeks. The best case scenario would be to see a flush of new growth next spring, but right now it’s too early to tell how the tree will respond.”

The incident is all the more emotional for Auburn fans given that the tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks. Hopefully the area around Toomer’s Corner can recover in time for the Tigers’ next win, which might be as soon as Saturday when they host Louisiana-Monroe.

Notre Dame officially parts ways with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder

FILE - In an Aug. 29, 2014 file photo, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, right, talks with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder during practice during media day for a NCAA football team in South Bend, Ind. It was announced Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder following a 1-3 start. The school tweeted a new release saying VanGorder is being replaced by defensive analyst Greg Hudson.(AP Photo/Joe Raymond, File)
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Notre Dame has officially parted ways with embattled defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

“This is a difficult decision,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.”

Notre Dame has allowed 134 points through their first four games and are just 1-3 after extremely high preseason expectations. This was VanGorder’s third season in South Bend but the Irish have regressed significantly and ranked 101st in FBS scoring defense after Saturday’s home loss to Duke.

Defensive analyst Greg Hudson, a former Notre Dame linebacker who has served as defensive coordinator at Purdue, East Carolina and Minnesota, was elevated to fill VanGorder’s role.

“It’s never easy to make a change on your staff, but I’m confident in Greg’s ability to lead our defense,” Kelly added. “As a former player at Notre Dame and an experienced defensive coordinator, he not only understands the expectations necessary to compete at the highest level, but he’ll bring a fresh perspective to our sideline, practice field and meeting rooms.”

The move to make staff changes on the defensive side of the ball isn’t exactly surprising to Irish fans who have seen the team play this year but the timing is notable. Kelly remarked that the coaching was not the problem on defense after the loss to the Blue Devils but still opted to make a change on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if a very young defense will respond, and perhaps even rally, now that a big message has been sent.

Notre Dame plays Syracuse on Saturday at noon ET.

Florida International fires head coach Ron Turner after 10-30 run

HADLEY, MA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Ron Turner of the FIU Golden Panthers looks on during the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Hadley, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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The firing season in college football is getting started earlier and earlier. Just ask Ron Turner.

The Florida International head coach was fired early Sunday in a move that was hardly surprising aside from its timing.

“I want to thank Coach Turner for his contributions to the FIU football program, most importantly his commitment to academics and community service,” athletic director Pete Garcia said in a short statement. “At this time Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Ron Cooper has been named interim head coach.”

Turner went 10-30 over four years at the school but was 0-4 to begin the season after a 53-14 loss to Central Florida last week. While he is far from the first coach fired in 2016, Turner did become the first head coach to be fired after the season got underway.

Cooper had a 45–55 record in nine seasons as a head coach at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M. He was elevated to FIU’s defensive coordinator prior to the season and notably served as LSU’s defensive backs coach when Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu starred in Baton Rouge.

The Panthers are set to play local rival Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

LSU head coach Les Miles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron fired

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers looks on during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Mad Hatter is looking for a new gig.

LSU has fired head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the school announced on Sunday. The news was first reported by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

“Decisions like this are never easy ones to make,” athletic director Joe Alleva said in a statement. “Coach Miles has done a tremendous job here and he’s been a great ambassador for our University, which makes this even more difficult.

“However, it’s apparent in evaluating the program through the first month of the season that a change has to be made. Our commitment to excellence and competing at the highest level is unwavering, and our goals for the remainder of this season haven’t changed. We have an obligation to our student-athletes to put them in the best position to have success on the football field each week and we have great confidence that coach Orgeron will do just that.”

The move comes just hours after the Tigers lost to Auburn in the final seconds to drop to 2-2 after beginning the year as a trendy national championship pick and top five team in the polls.

Miles has been in Baton Rouge since 2005 and posted a 114–34 record at the school, including a national title in 2007 and a pair of SEC championships. He was nearly let go after the 2015 season but was retained following a huge wave of public support and potential implications with a large buyout.

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was named the interim head coach for the rest of the season. Former LSU quarterback and current tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is slated to become the new offensive coordinator, according to Fox Sports.