There are rivalry games… and then there’s the Iron Bowl.
The biggest game in the SEC nearly every regular season lived up to the billing once again with a thrilling, back-and-forth battle between No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Auburn for three and a half quarters that resulted in a 26-14 upset win for the Tigers at home to seize control of the SEC West title, the conference as a whole and likely the race for a spot in the Sugar Bowl for the College Football Playoff.
The difference on the Plains for the home team was undoubtedly quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The transfer by way of Baylor and a junior college that many expected to lead Gus Malzahn’s offense to a storybook season was terrific on the biggest stage in the sport once again in leading Auburn to their second win over a No. 1 team in three weeks. The dual-threat threw for 237 yards with pinpoint accuracy against that feisty Tide secondary and really made a difference with his legs, scrambling out of several sacks and rushing for 51 yards and a score. Stidham formed a tough one-two punch in the backfield with Kerryon Johnson (106 yards, one touchdown rushing), who churned out tough carries and recorded the first points of the game by way of a perfectly executed jump pass.
However there’s also some concern for Auburn over the status of their star tailback as Johnson pulled up lame on a play late in the fourth quarter and could miss the SEC title game and possibly more. He injured his shoulder earlier in the game on a diving run toward the pylon and appeared to be favoring it as he made his way to the injury tent.
While the effort was one of the best of the year for the Tigers, the same could not be said for their opponents from Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban’s side was uncharacteristically undisciplined between penalties, bad snaps and some awful numbers on third down (3-of-11). Quarterback Jalen Hurts lost a fumble but was otherwise the only source of offense for Alabama, throwing for 112 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 82.
However there wasn’t any magic left in the team as the Tide lost for the first time in the regular season since September of 2015.
The result also shakes up the College Football Playoff standings and presumably puts a number of different scenarios in play for the SEC possibly placing two teams in the final four. At the very least the conference itself will secure one bid as Georgia and Auburn meet again, this time in Atlanta, for the conference championship next Saturday and a likely trip to the Sugar Bowl semifinal.
Folks on the Plains will turn their attention toward the rematch tomorrow however, as the rest of Saturday night will be left to celebrate another win over a No. 1 team and their hated rivals to the West.
It appears Lincoln Riley has all but officially gotten his man.
Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Bob Diaco was expected to take a job on Riley’s Oklahoma football staff. Friday, Pete Thamel of SI.com tweeted that Diaco has finalized a deal to join the football program. ESPN.com‘s Adam Rittenberg subsequently confirmed the initial report.
With all 10 of Riley’s on-field assistant slots filled, Diaco will serve as a defensive analyst for the Sooners.
Diaco spent the 2017 season as the defensive coordinator at Nebraska, let go after that one year following the firing of head coach Mike Riley. Prior to that brief stint in Lincoln, he was the head coach at UConn for three seasons before being fired after going 11-26 during his time with the Huskies.
Prior to that, he was the coordinator at Notre Dame for four seasons from 2010-13.
Dan Mullen is just breaking in his new office chair, but it will be a few more years until the new head coach to truly be able to get comfortable in his new digs. The University of Florida is scheduled to begin a complete overhaul of the athletics facilities in Gainesville this summer. When it is complete, a brand new state-of-the-art football training facility will be among the highlights of the $130 million project.
The new football facility is planned to occupy a space currently used by Florida’s baseball stadium. WOrk on the football facility will have to wait until the baseball program can move into its new stadium that is part of the renovation plans at Florida.
“With the change in facility locations for both baseball and football, we will now adjust the sequencing for these projects,” Florida AD Scott Stricklin said in a press release, according to Gridiron Now. “Baseball will need to be built first, which will allow us to repurpose the current baseball site and put the stand-alone football complex in that space.”
The new football training facility will take up a good chunk of the renovation costs with an estimated price tag of $65 million for a 130,000 square foot structure. Florida won’t have to wait until 2021 to use the facility, however, as the Gators should be expected to be able to start using the new complex as early as 2019 while the construction and renovation continues.
Eastern Michigan University made some tough decisions this week when it cut four athletic programs. Although cutting football was not deemed to be an option by AD Scott Wetherbee, the decision is already having some ramifications for the football program moving forward as one high school in the state of Michigan says the Eagles are no longer welcome on their premises.
Noel Dean, who coaches both the football and wrestling programs at Lowell High School, stated in a public letter addressed to EMU head coach Chris Creighton that he will no longer welcome Creighton or anyone else associated with EMU to his high school for recruiting purposes if the university goes through with cutting the wrestling program. Dean also issues a warning to Creighton in the letter, suggesting it may not be long before the university takes another hard look at the value of the football program.
“I can’t stand by and not take a stand against what is happening at EMU with the wrestling program,” Dean wrote in his letter, which was shared by Michigan Grappler. “Wrestling contributes too much to the fabric of our schools systems in Michigan (a guy from South Dakota might not get it), but if I stick to the facts on this. wrestling is only a bone to keep people happy FOR NOW. They are coming for you next.
“If this goes through, you and your staff will not be allowed in any one of our buildings.”
That is most certainly a hard line in the sand putting EMU on notice. If one school in the state of Michigan decides to close its doors to EMU and this message spreads throughout the high school coaching community in the state of Michigan, EMU would be in some serious trouble.
Helmet sticker to The Detroit Free Press.
Ed Warinner‘s bank account might want to consider sending Jim McElwain a thank-you note.
In January of this year, Warinner left Minnesota to take a job as a senior offensive analyst at Michigan. However, a month later, McElwain was added as U-M’s wide receivers coach; in an unsurprising twist to that move, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tim Drevno officially stepped down from his twin posts eight days after McElwain’s hiring and ultimately ended up back at USC.
McElwain, as had been widely expected before he was officially added to Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching staff, took over Drevno’s coordinating duties. Warinner, meanwhile, was officially named as Drevno’s replacement as line coach earlier this month.
According to mlive.com, Warinner has signed a two-year contract that will pay him $525,000 in 2018 and $550,000 in 2019. His scheduled salary for his role as an analyst with the football program? A “measly” $250,000.
Warinner spent the 2017 season as the offensive line coach and running-game coordinator at Minnesota. Prior to that, He was the line coach at Ohio State from 2012-16. In 2015, he added the title of co-offensive coordinator.