Alabama-USC set for 2016 opener in Arlington


Hell.  Yes.  Now we’re (officially) talking.

Of all the big non-conference matchups that have come down the pike over the past few months, this might be the biggest.  And most anticipated.

In twin press releases, Alabama and USC announced that the two storied football programs will kick off the 2016 college football season Sept. 3 with a neutral site game.  The game will be played at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Tex., in what by then will the eighth annual Cowboys Classic.

The announcement is not actually a surprise in that there was speculation a couple of months ago, but it’s still huge scheduling news.

The two programs last met in the Aloha Bowl following the 1985 season and first met in 1938.  All told, the Tide and the Trojans have squared off seven times — the former owns a 5-2 edge — including the historic meeting in 1970 “in which John McKay’s visiting Trojans, with their all-black starting backfield, pounded Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’s all-white Crimson Tide 42-21.”  That game, the story goes, forever changed Alabama football.

The 2016 appearance in the Cowboys Classic, incidentally, will mark the second consecutive appearance for Alabama in Arlington as the Tide is set to take on Wisconsin in the 2015 Classic.  The Tide also opened the 2012 season against Michigan in Arlington.

Of course, there’s also a chance that the UA-USC game could feature the Trojans playing against their former head coach, although it seems somewhat doubtful that current Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will still be in Tuscaloosa two years from now.  A man can dream, though.  A man can dream.

(Photo credit: Showtime)

Report: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury ‘just a sprain’

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It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his LEFT (throwing) hand.  It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach,, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”

Until then, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are engaged in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp.  That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

John Calipari takes page out of Nick Saban’s playbook by warning of (rat) poison

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One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”

Ok then.

At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.

It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.

Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

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Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.

After cutting four sports, Eastern Michigan says axing football is not “even an option”

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Prior to the arrival of current head coach Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan football was annually one of the programs people wondered about at the FBS level due to low attendance, bad records and a gray field being one of the few notable aspects about the program. After all, the Eagles have won just one MAC title in the decades they’ve been in the league and went to only their second ever bowl game back in 2016.

While the fortunes of the team have become more positive in recent seasons, the topic of cutting football altogether or dropping down to the FCS ranks was brought up again in Ypsilanti this week after the school made the decision to cut four sports from the athletic department for budgetary reasons. While some might think EMU could continue slashing and eventually reach the football team, it appears that is thankfully not on the table.

“Football is not being cut,” said athletic director Scott Wetherbee, according to “No. 1, because I had a directive from our board of regents and the president, and we all agree we want to stay in the Mid-American Conference and we want to be a FBS Division I football team.

“It wasn’t even an option to look at that.”

That should settle that.

Wetherbee went on to said that the school receives several million dollars from just being a member of the MAC and having a football team is certainly a key part in remaining in the league. Money is a touchy subject around the university when it comes to athletics as just last year Eastern Michigan students campaigned against a $35 million football facility.

Despite the opposition and the most recent budget cuts though, it seems the school’s leadership is firmly behind Creighton and the Eagles remaining a part of life at EMU.