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With win over FSU, Nick Saban continues to absolutely own former assistants head-to-head


If you’re an athletic director with a head coach who is a branch, or even a twig, on the Nick Saban coaching tree, tread very lightly when it comes to scheduling.

In what was the first college football opener ever matching two teams ranked in the Top Three, No. 1 Alabama got past No. 3 Florida State in the first-ever game at the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.  With just a 10-7 lead at halftime, the Crimson Tide was able to gradually pull away from the Seminoles in the 24-7 win.

Big brother UA’s methodical noogying of younger brother FSU continued trends on multiple levels — and halted another.

Jimbo Fisher earned his first FBS offensive coordinator job under Saban at LSU in 2000.  Fisher remained on Saban’s staff until the latter moved on to the Miami Dolphins in 2005, with the former staying with the Tigers for two years before moving on to the same job at FSU and ultimately becoming the Seminoles’ head coach after Bobby Bowden stepped down.

With tonight’s game, Fisher became the fifth former Saban assistant, in a total of 11 games, to face his former boss as a head coach.  And the results are, somewhat predictably, not pretty for the protégés.

Saban is now a perfect 11-0 against former coaches, with Fisher joining Mark Dantonio (0-2 at Michigan State), Derek Dooley (0-3 at Tennessee), Jim McElwain (0-3 at Florida, Colorado State) and Will Muschamp (0-2 at Florida) as victims of their ex-boss.  If you’re an FSU fan and want to search for some sliver of a silver lining, the previous 10 games were decided by an average of 30 points per game; the Seminoles lost by just 17, which, based on that precedent, is nice.

A couple of other tidbits left over from tonight’s game: Saban is now a perfect 11-0 in openers at Alabama, and 19-3 overall in such games as a college football head coach.  Conversely, Fisher had been a perfect 7-0 in openers at Florida State until Saturday night’s loss.

Oh, and then there’s this, with yet another connection between Saban and Fisher:

Alright, one more little tidbit that’s completely unrelated to these particular coaches: Miami in 1983 is the last team to lose its opener (28-3, at Florida) and go on to win a national championship.  So, good luck FSU, and any other team that lost Week 1.

FAU QB dismissed by Oklahoma ‘actually thanked’ Lane Kiffin for suspension that lasted two days

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That certainly didn’t last long.

Tuesday, after the first day of spring practice, Lane Kiffin revealed that Chris Robison had been indefinitely suspended from the Florida Atlantic football program for unspecified violations of team rules; one report had the suspension connected to skipping a mandatory tutoring session. At the time, the second-year head coach indicated that the suspension was day-to-day and could be lifted at any time.

As it turns out, Thursday was that time as the quarterback returned to the practice field with the rest of his FAU teammates.

“He came in [Wednesday] and actually thanked me for it,” Kiffin said according to the Sun-Sentinel. “He said it really kind of embarrassed him nationally and humbled him that things could kind of be taken away. It was good to see.”

A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Robison was arrested in April of that year for public intoxication; four months later, OU announced that Robison had been dismissed from the football program.  In August of last year, Robison announced his decision to transfer to FAU and ended up taking a redshirt for the 2017 season.

Robison and De’Andre Johnson are expected to compete for the starting job vacated by Jason Driskel, who announced earlier this offseason that he was retiring from the sport.  Johnson missed most of the 2017 season after blood clots were discovered in one of his arms.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) returns to practice

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In the end, it appears to be much ado about (mostly) nothing.

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.

Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon. That report proved prophetic as Tagovailoa was indeed back at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis.


The quarterback was not doing the normal drills with his teammates but was off to the side working with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. It looked like they were testing Tagovailoa’s ability to grip the football since the injury was suffered on his throwing hand. He replicated a few play-action roll outs with the ball in his left hand. At one point, he rolled over toward where Jalen Hurts was standing and they high fived.

Until Tagovailoa is fully recovered, 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 entrenched 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.

USC graduate transfer Jalen Greene heads east to play at Illinois in 2018

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Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.

The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.

Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.

Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.

Josh Heupel keeping most of Scott Frost’s playbook at UCF as spring practice begins

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There are a ton of interesting storylines as spring practice begins across the country but one of the most intriguing programs to watch might be in Orlando as UCF looks to simultaneously follow up an undefeated season while also transitioning to a new coaching staff.

ESPN’s Andrea Adelson wrote a good story on the Knights changing some things up under head coach Josh Heupel the past few months like eating with players during meals, new strength and conditioning regiments and the usual offseason stuff you typically wind up season. However there was one interesting nugget about the team’s playbook that the coach relayed:

In other areas, player input has kept a few things unchanged. Take the offensive playbook, for example. Heupel and (Scott) Frost share enough offensive concepts that the new staff has adopted the terminology that players already know on the plays they have in common. So in theory, that should allow the offense to hit spring practice, which started Tuesday, with much more familiarity than another program that has completely changed over its staff.

As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In Heupel’s first head coaching gig, it seems he’s taking that to heart.