Nick Saban

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


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 “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, 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.

Georgia reportedly hires Kirby Smart as head coach

Kirby Smart

Sometimes the rumors really are true.

Seemingly since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the worst-kept secret in college football was that Kirby Smart wouldn’t jump from Nick Saban‘s perch until the Georgia job opened.

And now, one day after Mark Richt said goodbye in Athens, multiple reports say that’s exactly what will happen – Smart will be the next Bulldogs coach.

Outside of Houston’s Tom Herman, Smart was the only target UGA athletics director Greg McGarity truly targeted and, barring a major turn of events between now and the SEC championship, he’ll have landed him.

Hailing from Bainbridge, Ga., Smart played safety for Georgia from 1995-98, then returned in 2005 as running backs coach. In between he made stops at Valdosta State, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Dolphins and, finally, Alabama, where he helped the Crimson Tide to three national titles and never produced a defense ranked lower than 18th nationally in yards per play defense.

This year’s Crimson Tide defense ranks second nationally heading into an SEC title game date with Florida. If, as expected, Alabama wins and, as expected, Smart is introduced as Georgia’s next coach, he’ll likely pull a move much like Herman last year and work double-duty through Alabama’s run in the College Football Playoff.

What sort of program will Smart run? Other than the Process-based enterprise seemingly microchip implanted into the brain of every Saban aide, it’s hard to say. Smart only spoke to the media three times annually.

But here’s one guarantee: he’ll need to nail his offensive coordinator hire. Saban’s former offensive coordinators — Jimbo Fisher and Jim McElwain — have thrived, while his most prominent defensive coordinator-turned-head coach protege — Will Muschamp — failed mightily at Florida because he could never conquer the other side of the ball.

Smart will be expected to win, win big, and win quickly. You don’t fire a coach with 145 wins in 15 years and 19 victories in the last two for any other reason.

Why Steve Spurrier retired, as told by Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier

When Steve Spurrier abruptly retired in October, most stopped to reminisce about a true college football original’s career come to a sudden, but not unexpected end. But others pointed out that Spurrier essentially quit on his team in the middle of a tough season. It was an easy take and, hey, it’s not like the Old Ball Coach himself wouldn’t have said something if Mark Richt had done something similar.

In a letter provided to The State, Spurrier reasoned his retirement truly was better for the team, that the team played better without him around and that his presence would’ve generated speculation that would have suffocated the rest of the season.

Considering the Gamecocks lost to The Citadel, one has every reason to doubt that claim. But it’s the one Spurrier is going with.

The letter in full:

In the last few years when asked how much longer I plan to coach, I have said often that if our team is going in the wrong direction I need to resign and allow someone else to take over as head coach here. After six games, we were 2-4 with two blow-outs by Georgia and LSU. We were behind at halftime against UCF (a team that went 0-12 this year). We were definitely going in the wrong direction. I felt that I was doing a lousy job as head coach and a change would help our team become more competitive.

I told our team after I resigned that they needed new leadership, new enthusiasm and a new plan. By stepping aside, this allowed Shawn Elliott the opportunity to change our direction, change our attitude, and hopefully, he could be named head coach after the season. If this happens, some of our assistant coaches would be retained, and this was a major reason for me to get out of the way. Also, by resigning, I forfeited the buyout clause in my contract that saved our university three million dollars.

I certainly believe, as the media has said, that our team played better after I resigned. Shawn Elliott did an excellent job getting this team prepared to play with enthusiasm and effort the rest of our season. Unfortunately, the close games turned into close losses.

When I mentioned I may coach again, I meant possibly as a volunteer coach at a high school. After thirty years as a head coach, I positively know that my head coaching career is finished.

I understand the critics have asked why I didn’t announce I was retiring at the end of the season, as some other coaches have done. I felt that if I had done this, I would have been a distraction throughout the remainder of the season about my last game everywhere I went. I did not want a “Spurrier Farewell Tour.” The players deserve to be the story of each game. Also, it would have prevented Shawn Elliott, a coach that has loved the South Carolina Gamecocks his whole life, from getting the shot to be the interim head coach, with the possibility of becoming the Head Coach here.

When a coach gets fired, the change is often good and helpful to the team. Miami was 4-3 when Al Golden was fired, and the interim head coach went 4-1. Randy Edsall was 2-4 at Maryland when fired and his replacement got the team playing better. Clay Helton, the interim coach at the other USC, was recently named head coach as they went 5-2 under his watch.

Our university was not going to fire me, so I thought it was best for our team that I basically fire myself by resigning. The players have enjoyed playing for Coach Elliott and again the media has said the team has performed better after I resigned.

Thanks to all Gamecocks for allowing me to be your coach for over ten years. My wife Jerri and I will always be thankful and appreciative to the University of South Carolina for this opportunity.


Steve Spurrier

Top four remains same in penultimate College Football Playoff rankings

Bob Stoops

The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and the top four remained the same from last week. Michigan State sits at fifth, meaning Saturday’s Big Ten Championship is officially a national quarterfinal.

Stanford, heading into this week’s Pac-12 Championship, checked in at No. 7, while party-crasher-to-be North Carolina jumped from No. 14 to No. 10.

Ohio State checks in at No. 6, but Stanford seems primed to pass the Buckeyes with a win over No. 20 USC. Getting into the top four, however, would require a loss by No. 1 Clemson or No. 2 Alabama. No. 3 Oklahoma is seemingly in the playoff with a completed 11-1 regular season.

TCU moved one spot ahead of Baylor after a rain-soaked double overtime win over the Bears on Friday night.

Houston, USC and LSU moved back into the rankings, while Tennessee joined the party for the first time this year.

Tuesday night’s release was the final dress rehearsal of the 2015 season; the next time we hear from the CFP selection committee will be to announce the four semifinal selections.

But while these are the second-to-last set of rankings, we can ask 2014 TCU about how much they ultimately mean.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
7. Stanford
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
11. TCU
12. Baylor
13. Ole Miss
14. Northwestern
15. Michigan
16. Oregon
17. Oklahoma State
18. Florida
19. Houston
20. USC
21. LSU
22. Temple
23. Navy
24. Utah
25. Tennessee

Dabo Swinney wins ACC Coach of the Year award

Dabo Swinney

When you go undefeated, people tend to give you awards.

In the wake of Clemson’s first perfect regular season, its first since 1981, head coach and pizza party patron Dabo Swinney was named the ACC’s top coach on Tuesday.

Swinney received 27 of the 50 available votes, edging North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (21). Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi each gobbled up one of the two remaining votes.

Aaron Brenner of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier notes Swinney is due a $25,000 bonus for winning the award.