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Nick Saban on title game loss to Clemson: “I’ll never get over it”

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As much as college football coaches preach about moving on to the game in front of them, past results have a history of lingering in their minds.

Even Nick Saban, when not sparring with assistants, tends to dwell on losses and perhaps none was more painful to the Crimson Tide head coach than losing to Clemson in the final second of the national title game. While the future Hall of Famer is clearly focused on the 2017 season in Tuscaloosa, it seems a part of him still can’t get past what happened this past January.

“I’ll never get over it because you never do with those kind of losses,” Saban told ESPN. “I never got over the returned field goal at Auburn. I never got over playing poorly against Ohio State and losing that game late. And then in this game, we didn’t play very well, and Clemson did when they had to. That’s what eats at you.

“Something happened to our team from the SEC championship game to the playoff. You look at the Clemson game, and our really good players didn’t play very well. But Clemson was a damn good team. They were the best team we played against with the best quarterback, and where we needed to play well, we didn’t.”

Saban isn’t exactly breaking any news with that kind of message and continued to take blame for not getting the team ready to play after winning the conference title. He also downplayed losing offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin after the Peach Bowl and bringing in Steve Sarkisian, noting it didn’t have as much of an impact as many thought given how defensive lapses down the stretch plagued Alabama in the title game.

The Tide wrap up spring football on Saturday with their eyes focused on avenging that loss and getting back to the College Football Playoff once again but Saban, true to his self, cautioned that getting back to the promised land wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” he added about this year’s team.

Scott Frost’s stock continues to rise as unbeaten and 20th-ranked UCF knocks off Navy

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Paying attention to your prodigal son, Nebraska?  Where are your eyes at, Tennessee?

Entering Week 8 unbeaten and ranked 20th in the country, Central Florida was facing arguably its stiffest test of the season in the form of 5-1 Navy. After 60 minutes of play in Annapolis, the Knights are leaving town with a 31-21 win over the Midshipmen.

A pivotal moment came in the middle of the third quarter when, trailing just 21-14 and driving, starting quarterback and leading rusher Zach Abey was knocked out of the game.  The junior, who had 126 yards on the ground prior to leaving did not return to the contest because of what looked to be a head injury.

The service academy was able to close the gap to 24-21 early in the fourth quarter, but a turnover gave the ball back to UCF with just over seven minutes remaining.  Seven plays and 54 yards later, the Knights cashed in on the fumble recovery with a 10-yard Otis Anderson touchdown run that effectively put the game away with 3:30 left.

With the win, UCF is now 6-0 on the season, the first time they’ve won the first six games of a season in the program’s history.

As for the stock of Scott Frost, it does nothing but continue to rise.  Taking over a program that was winless the year before he arrived, the Knights went 6-7 in his first season and are now ranked 20th in the country, behind only 16th-ranked South Florida in the group of Five.

Those two AAC contenders are on a collision course for a potentially epic regular-season finale — one that could determine the G5’s lone New Year’s Six bowl bid.  Before then, however, UCF needs to get past an FCS foe, SMU, UConn and Temple, while USF will have to take care of business against Tulane later on tonight as well as Houston, UConn and Tulsa.

No. 9 Oklahoma struggling on the road with Kansas State at halftime

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It didn’t take long — two plays exactly — for No. 9 Oklahoma to realize that they will have their hands full against Kansas State on Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats struck early and struck often to jump out to a 21-10 lead over their Big 12 rival heading into halftime in yet another head-scratching performance for the Sooners after a big win.

Defensive issues were at the heart of the problem for the ranked side, as KSU quarterback Alex Delton looked borderline unstoppable until a late interception — finishing the half with 60 yards passing and an even more impressive 115 yards and two touchdowns rushing. The speedy dual-threat made his second start in place of Jesse Ertz and may have fully Wally Pipp’d his veteran teammate given what he brought to the offense. Running back Alex Barnes also chipped in with 96 yards, including a 75-yard score on the second snap of the game.

Perhaps the biggest bout of news from the half was surrounding Sooners’ star Baker Mayfield. The signal-caller was 12-of-15 for 148 yards and a touchdown while also leading the team in rushing after two quarters. However he was taken out of the game on the final drive with a potential injury, only to return to the field as a decoy for two wildcat formation plays. It’s still not clear if he’s 100 percent healthy after taking a rather hard hit on a scramble.

Mayfield was also picked off once, thanks to an incredible job by KSU’s Denzel Goolsby to wrestle a ball away from a receiver in the end zone to come up with the ball.

So yes, just another weird day in the Big 12 as not much makes sense and a highly ranked team looks to be in real trouble on the road.

Miami turns Syracuse turnovers into 13-3 halftime lead

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A week after knocking off the ACC favorite and defending national champions, can Syracuse pull off another upset in the ACC? If Syracuse is going to do that against Miami, they have some work to do in the second half. Miami leads Syracuse at halftime, 13-3 while the Orange have had four turnovers.

The momentum of last week’s shocking upset against Clemson did not carry over on the road against Miami for Syracuse. Syracuse’s game-opening drive appeared to end on an interception off a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage, but Miami’s Demetrius Jackson had the ball stripped out of his hands after initially intercepting the ball. In the end, it turned out to be a Syracuse first down and what was effectively a loss of 12 yards on the play.

Turnovers would be the story of the half for Syracuse, however. Miami turned two Eric Dungey interceptions into 10 points in the first half. Malik Rosier completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Christopher Herndon IV to put the Hurricanes up 10-0 eight plays after an interception by the defense. Miami added a field goal after Syracuse was intercepted on the third play of the ensuing possession.

The best drive of the half for Syracuse traveled 71 yards over 17 plays but ended with a 22-yard field goal by Cole Murphy to get the Orange on the board.

The Syracuse defense has done their job. Miami has converted just one of six third-down plays for a first down, and the Hurricanes have not been able to do more damage on the scoreboard despite the abundance of Syracuse turnovers.

Tennessee hanging around with Alabama — and trailing by three TDs

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It feels like Tennessee is hanging decently well with Alabama, and yet the score is 21-0 Tide at the break in Tuscaloosa. Such is life in the Third Saturday in October rivalry.

Bo Scarborough lodged Alabama’s first two scores on identical plays, diving over a pile of humanity for 1-yard scores. The first came to end Alabama’s first drive of the day and the second came at the 4:48 mark of the second quarter. Damien Harris added the third on an 11-yard carry at the 1:18 mark.

Jalen Hurts has completed 9-of-17 passes for 144 yards, but the numbers look better than his performance has. The sophomore has been late and/or off-target with a handful of throws thus far.

It hasn’t mattered, though, as Alabama has racked up 108 yards on the ground and benefitted from a pair of drive-extending penalties by Tennessee.

Tennessee’s offense has avoided a critical mistake but hasn’t seriously threatened the Alabama defense. John Kelly has carried four times for 21 yards, and Jarrett Guarantano completed 7-of-11 passes for 38 yards while rushing eight times for 13 yards. As a team, Tennessee amassed 75 yards of offense and five first downs in the half.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.