Nick Saban

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 3 Alabama

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2013 record: 11-2 overall, 7-1 in SEC (T-1st in SEC West)
2013 postseason: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma (45-31 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 7/No. 8
Head coach: Nick Saban (165-57 overall; 78-16 in seven years at Alabama)
Offensive coordinator: Lane Kiffin (first season)
2013 offensive rankings: 25th rushing offense (205.6 ypg); 49th passing offense (248.5 ypg); 33rd total offense (454.1 ypg); 17th scoring offense (38.2 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: Eight
Defensive coordinator: Kirby Smart (seventh season)
2013 defensive rankings: 7th rushing defense (106.2 ypg); 11th passing defense (180.3 ypg); 5th total defense (286.5 ypg); fourth scoring defense (13.9 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: Four
Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Stadium: Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821; Grass)
Last conference title: 2012

THE GOOD
Replacing a three-year starter at quarterback?  Pffft, no problem for a Tide squad that boasts two Top-Five SEC running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry… and the SEC’s best wide receiver-tight end combination in Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard… and at least three returning starters along the offensive line… and a defense that, despite the return of  just four starters, is littered with four- and five-star recruits throughout the depth chart and will, again, be one of the most stout in the conference… and, hands-down, the best coach in college football in Nick Saban.  In other words, and as they have been for the past few years, the Tide will enter a season as one of the handful of favorites to end the year No. 1.

THE BAD
I wouldn’t necessarily call this “bad,” but still.  Yes, Saban reloads his defense with four- and five-star talent, but the Tide still must replace a whopping seven starters from last year’s Top-10 squad on that side of the ball.  Not only that, three of those starters, all along the defensive line, have had their issues throughout the offseason and on into camp: two with suspensions, one with injury.  There are also experience issues in the secondary, with three starters needing replaced.  Fortunately for what will be a youthful Tide defense, their first three opponents (West Virginia, FAU, Southern Miss) won a total of 11 games last season, with all three finishing 78th or worse in scoring offense nationally.  In other words, the defense will have plenty of time to sort themselves out and gel before facing their first real test in Tuscaloosa against… four-win Florida, which finished T-112th in scoring.  The first real test against a team with more than a Pop Warner offense comes, after a bye, against Ole Miss Oct. 4.  Plenty of time, but still some concern over the inexperience.

THE UNKNOWN
We may have pffft’d replacing AJ McCarron, but it’s easily the biggest unknown heading into the 2014 season.  With less than week left before the start of the regular season, Saban, first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and the rest of the staff have not yet, at least publicly, settled on Jacob Coker, the Florida State transfer viewed as the presumptive front-runner, or Blake Sims, McCarron’s backup last season, as the starting quarterback.  Most believe that Coker will ultimately prevail, but there’s a possibility the Tide could go a game or two — or three of four — giving each an opportunity to grab the bull by the horns.  Saban said earlier this year that “consistency in performance” would be the key in settling on a starter; throughout the first three weeks or so of summer camp, neither Coker nor Sims has shown the type of consistency Saban has craved during his time in Tuscaloosa.  Back in July, Saban downplayed the Tide’s chances at a College Football Playoff title because of the inexperience at the position — Coker has attempted 41 passes in his career, Sims 39.  Saban’s downplaying comes with an asterisk, however, as the last two times he had a first-time full-time starter at the position — AJ McCarron in 2011, Greg McElroy in 2009 — the Tide won a BCS title.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: Nov. 29 vs. Auburn
It took less than a half a second to work my way through the Tide’s 12 games and settle on this one.  Certainly, the Nov. 8 road trip will be rife with implications both conference-wise and nationally, but this one… this one’s easily the “It” game for both sides this year.  The annual Iron Bowl grudge/hate match would get consideration year-in and year-out regardless of the most recent one played.  After last year?  This one comes in head, shoulders and half a torso above the other 11 games for the Tide.  Of course, the “last year” I referenced was the most memorable play of the 2013 season, “The Kick-Six” at Jordan-Hare that stunned the Tide and propelled the Tigers into the SEC championship game and, ultimately, the BCS title game.  While the coach and his team would never express it publicly, revenge will certainly be on their collective minds as the Tigers make their trek to Tuscaloosa in late November.  This year’s version may not match the drama of last year’s, but it’s still compelling, must-see TV — and could very well determine which team comes out of the SEC West and claims that division’s spot in the SEC championship game, with a spot in the College Football Playoff (likely) riding on all of it.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: running back T.J. Yeldon
After rushing for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, this bruising back has it all: speed, power, change of direction and surprisingly soft hands (20-183) for a man his size.  He is everything Nick Saban wants in a running back.  What he doesn’t have?  Sole ownership of the Tide’s running game load, the kind of ownership that would allow him to put up eye-catching numbers, because of the presence of Derrick Henry.  The reality is Henry is too good of a back and too much of a weapon to not utilize, which means Yeldon could still be one of the most Heisman-worthy players in the country and not have the stats to show it.  Such is life on Saban’s Five-Star Island.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Despite report to contrary, president David Boren says Oklahoma hasn’t made up mind on Big 12 expansion

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 10: President of the University of Oklahoma David Boren and Head Coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners talk before the game against the Baylor Bears November 10, 2012 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Baylor 42-34. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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It wouldn’t be the Big 12 without a little drama, now would it?

Tuesday, Pete Thamel of SI.com reported it’s believed that Oklahoma president David Boren, long thought to be a major proponent of expanding the Big 12 beyond 10 teams, “has reversed course on his view of expansion.” This report comes nearly two weeks after T. Boone Pickens‘ BFF infamously — and very surprisingly — tapped the expansion brakes.

“I wouldn’t take expansion as a given,” Boren said Sept. 14. “I wouldn’t take it as a sure thing.”

According to Thamel’s report, it appears that BYU, long a favorite of Boren, and the uproar over its honor code has caused Boren, and thus the university, to shift gears when it comes to expansion. Additionally, OU’s regents are reportedly not in favor of expansion and are pressuring Boren “to convey that message.”

That shift, at least what he’s putting out there for public consumption, is news to Boren.

“I do not know where the speculation came from,” Boren said in a statement to ESPN.com, “but Oklahoma has not yet taken a position on expansion.”

It was thought that expansion could be decided at a meeting of chancellors and presidents in Irving, Tex., in the middle of next month, although that could be pushed to the end of the year, if not the beginning of 2017. A total of 11 schools made the cut as “finalists” should the Big 12 expand, with those nearly dozen schools presenting their cases over the past couple of weeks.

Of the 11, seven come from the AAC — Cincinnati, Houston, SMU, Tulane, UCF, UConn, USF — two from the Mountain West — Air Force, Colorado State — and one from Conference USA — Rice. The lone remaining school, BYU, is a football independent.

Domestic abuse, child endangerment charges dropped against LSU’s Davon Godchaux

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 08: T.J. Yeldon #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is tackled by Davon Godchaux #57 of the LSU Tigers  during a game at Tiger Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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An off-field incident involving one playing member of the LSU football program has taken a positive turn for the Tiger.

The East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office confirmed Tuesday evening that no formal charges will be filed against Davon Godchaux. The starting defensive end was arrested over the weekend on charges of false imprisonment and domestic abuse/child endangerment in connection to a domestic situation.

Godchaux (pictured, No. 57) had been accused of getting into an altercation with his girlfriend and preventing her from leaving their apartment with their 10-month old child.

“The primary basis for this change of booking (dropped charges) was the inconsistent statements of (the woman) and of Mr. Godchaux and the physical evidence,” DA Hillar Moore III said. “And not her request to dismiss these charges.”

The girlfriend reportedly had a swollen lip and red marks around her neck while Godchaux had cuts on his gums. The woman was charged with domestic abuse/child endangerment as well; that charge is still pending a formal charging decision, Moore stated.

Godchaux was indefinitely suspended by interim head coach Ed Orgeron following the arrest, and remains that way as of Wednesday morning, a school official said.

The junior has started 26 games during his time with the Tigers, including all four in 2016. His 20 tackles are currently fifth on the team, while his two tackles for loss are fifth as well.

FSU says ‘Pigg’ Harrison suspended; report says WR has left program

TALLAHASSEE, FL - APRIL 11:  Ja'Vonn Harrison #13 of the Garnett team catches a pass in front of Marquez White #27 of the Gold team during Florida State's Garnet and Gold spring game at Doak Campbell Stadium on April 11, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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There appears to be some confusion regarding the status of Ja’Vonn “Pigg” Harrison, but one thing is seemingly certain — the wide receiver won’t see the field for the Seminoles for the foreseeable future, if ever again.

Following practice Tuesday, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher announced that Harrison has been suspended from his football team. The only reason given was an unspecified violation of team rules.

“As of right now, he’s suspended,” the head coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “We’ll see what happens. Team violation.”

However, TomahawkNation.com is reporting that third-year junior has left the team completely and intends to transfer.

A four-star member of FSU 2014 recruiting class, Harrison was rated as the No. 30 player at any position in the state of Florida and the 197 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. The Lakeland native, however, never quite lived up to that recruiting pedigree.

Including this season, Harrison has played in 20 games in his career, starting one of those contest (2016 vs. Ole Miss). He caught eight passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. Six of those receptions, 129 of the yards and the lone touchdown came in 2015. This season, he had one catch for nine yards.

T. Boone Pickens prefers Houston and SMU for Big 12 expansion, rips Boren, still not besties with Gundy

BP Capital Management LP Chief Executive Officer T. Boone Pickens Interview
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If you though the rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State was strictly on the football field, think again. Bedlam reaches beyond the gridiron and now has T. Boone Pickens slinging mud at Oklahoma president David Boren.

According to Kirk Bohls of The Austin American-Statesman, the Oklahoma State donor shared some comments about the Big 12 expansion saga that continues to drag its feet. Pickens reportedly prefers the Big 12 to add within the current Big 12 foot print by inviting Houston and SMU from the American Athletic Conference. That’s probably good news for fans of Houston and SMU, if they believe Boone’s influence carries any weight in this process (it doesn’t, but we don’t have to pour cold water on this subject for now). But the interesting part of the report included a jab at Oklahoma’s president, who recently appeared to suggest he was fine with a 10-team Big 12 only to respond by saying no decisions have been made where Oklahoma stands on expansion.

“I’ve known David forever. He likes to talk. He gets a little bit confused sometimes,” Pickens said. He also suggested “maybe it’s time for David to retire.”

Pickens also updated his relationship status with Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy.

“I don’t have any conversations with Gundy,” Pickens said. In late December 2014 there appeared to be some friction between the head coach and top donor when Pickens proclaimed he didn’t care who coached the team while suggesting he will always support the program and university, his alma mater. Gundy looked to make sure the two were on common ground. Things appeared to have smoothed over by the following spring, but the two are not exactly hanging out together in their spare time.

“I don’t know, but Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things,” Pickens explained. “I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary.”

Excuse me while I file away a Freedom of Information Act request for access to these notes…