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.

Jeff Banks looks to make Alabama’s special teams a strength

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If there is any crack in Alabama’s championship foundation, it may be on special teams. Looking to patch things up with the special teams, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has brought on new special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. The former Texas A&M special teams coordinator was officially announced as Alabama’s new special teams coach on Thursday.

“We are pleased to be able to add a coach the caliber of Jeff Banks to our staff as special teams coordinator,” Saban said in a released statement. “Jeff is well-respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He is a great teacher and someone who will help our football team be successful.”

Banks comes to Alabama after five years at Texas A&M under former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was recently hired by Arizona. Special teams was one of the more consistently reliable aspects of the Aggies program under his watch, so Alabama hopes that can carry over to Tuscaloosa.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama and work with such a talented group of student-athletes,” Banks said. “Coach Saban has built an unbelievable program that has a long tradition of success. I’m really excited to get out on the road recruiting, and I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”

Alabama ranked 90th in the nation last season in field goal percentage and 50th in the nation in punting average. Obviously, this has not hurt Alabama’s chances of competing for and winning national titles over the course of Saban’s time at Alabama, but it is somewhat remarkable just how many times special teams seems to make things just a little more difficult for the Crimson Tide. I suppose something has to at some point, right? In the recent College Football Playoff national championship, Alabama had to beat Georgia in overtime after a last-second field goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was missed.

The rich just keep getting richer at Alabama.

Temple prepares for next step in quest for new on-campus football stadium

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With time running out on the current lease at Lincoln Financial Field appearing on the horizon, Temple University continues to move forward with exploring their plans for a potential multipurpose facility that could be used to host Temple football on Temple’s campus. The school is now preparing to take the next step forward with the idea by presenting the plans to the City Planning Commission with the hope of being given the approval to continue pushing toward breaking ground on a new facility on Temple’s campus.

“We have said from the start that our first priority has been to engage with our neighbors and local leaders to determine the potential for, and impact of, this facility,” Temple president Richard Englert said in a released statement. “After more than two years of these discussions, and in light of the project’s tremendous value for Temple and North Philadelphia, I have concluded that the time is right to take this step.”

One of the biggest concerns about any on-campus football stadium is the reaction from the neighboring community that has been reluctant to embrace a football stadium being dropped right in the neighborhood.

Englert said in a released statement the university “will continue our conversations with neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project.”

The football stadium would, in theory, be able to serve multiple purposes in addition to football and will be designed with surrounding economic opportunities in mind. Space for retail locations will be a part of the master plans to help inject some revenue into the surrounding area, and educational facilities will be included in the plans as well.

In all, the plan is currently estimated to cost roughly $130 million. Temple recently negotiated a short-term extension on their lease to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. If Temple is given the approval to move forward with their stadium plan, they could theoretically be able to play a true home game on their campus beginning in 2020.

Chuckie Keeton returns to Utah State as offensive assistant coach

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One of Utah State’s all-time best players is back with the program. Chuckie Keeton is joining the Utah State coaching staff, although his exact title has not yet been officially confirmed.

What role Keeton will take on remains to be officially announced, although the speculation is he will be an offensive assistant coach who will work with the Utah State quarterbacks. This will be Keeton’s second coaching job since his playing days came to a close. Keeton got started at Oregon State under former Utah State and Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen. Keeton joined the Oregon State coaching staff in 2016. With changes in the Oregon State program with a coaching change this offseason, now was as good a time as any for Keeton to return to Utah State, where he became one of the top players from a non-power conference program to become a bit of a household name.

Keeton shared his reaction to returning to his alma mater on Twitter.

Keeton holds a number of Utah State records including career records for completion percentage and pass efficiency and season records for most touchdown passes, passing yards, total offensive yards, and completion percentage. Utah State finished the 2017 season ranked 69th in the nation in passing offense and ended the year with 17 passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Keeton’s college career was sidetracked by injuries far too often, but it will be good to see Keeton back with the Utah State program as he continues his coaching career.

Louisville, USF announce future three-game series

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This is one we would’ve liked to have seen when Lamar Jackson and Quinton Flowers would’ve been taking the field.

Be that as it may, Louisville and USF announced Thursday morning that the football programs have reached an agreement on a future three-game series.  The Cardinals will travel to South Florida for Sept. 21, 2024, for the middle game of the series.  The Bulls will head to Papa John’s Stadium Sept. 24, 2022, and Sept. 19, 2026.

“The USF and Louisville programs have featured some of the most exciting players in college football over the last few seasons,” USF athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “We are excited to have Louisville returning to Raymond James Stadium and to add a three-game series with an exciting, top-level opponent with which we share a great deal of history.”

Tne two schools have met in football 11 times previously, most coming when both were members of the now-defunct Big East conference. They first played in 2003, with the last matchup coming in 2013.

The Cardinals hold a 6-5 lead in the mini-series.