Texas A&M Aggies

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines leads the team onto the field prior to playing the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 22, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 41-8. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Coaches Poll: Michigan takes Ohio State’s spot behind Alabama as Buckeyes drop


After slipping on the road against Penn State, Ohio State took a slight fall in the coaches poll this week. The Buckeyes dropped from second in the poll behind top-ranked Alabama to eighth. Adding salt to the wound, Michigan took over the second spot in the poll previously occupied by Ohio State. Clemson remained at third in the poll and Washington moved into the top four.

Arkansas and Ole Miss dropped out of the rankings this week, making room for Colorado and Virginia Tech. Houston, despite a blowout loss at SMU, remained in the top 25 at No. 24.

Here is this week’s coaches poll, with first-place votes noted:

  1. Alabama (63)
  2. Michigan
  3. Clemson (1)
  4. Washington
  5. Louisville
  6. Nebraska
  7. Baylor
  8. Ohio State
  9. West Virginia
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Florida
  13. Boise State
  14. Florida State
  15. Oklahoma
  16. Utah
  17. Auburn
  18. Tennessee
  19. LSU
  20. North Carolina
  21. Western Michigan
  22. Navy
  23. Colorado
  24. Houston
  25. Virginia Tech

Alabama loses star safety/ace returner Eddie Jackson to broken leg

Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a punt for a 79-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Alabama’s win over Texas A&M came at a steep cost to both its defense and special teams.

Early in the fourth quarter of the 33-14 win, Eddie Jackson sustained an injury to his left leg and did not return.  Following the game, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that Jackson had suffered a broken leg.

As a result, both the senior’s season and his career have come to an abrupt end.

“Eddie was a fantastic player for us and a great leader,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the school. “I think he was an All-American player as a safety, at least in my book. We’re certainly going to miss him, but what a great player, what a great competitor, and what a great guy to have in this program for the time he’s been here.

“He’s done a fantastic job for us and I’m just sick for him and his family. I hate it that it’s one of the things about sports, all sports, and that we have to deal with sometimes as injuries. It’s unfortunate, especially when it happens to a great guy and a very, very good player. We’re certainly going to miss him.”

The loss of Jackson, who some consider the heart and soul of a very talented Tide defense, is a huge one.

Jackson had started the last 23 games at safety after starting 14 games at cornerback his first two seasons with the Tide.  The past two seasons, Jackson has returned three interceptions for touchdowns.  He’s also one of the best punt returners in the nation, having returned two for touchdowns this season.

Entering the 2016 season, Jackson was widely viewed as a likely first- or second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

No. 1 Alabama roars back in the second half to beat No. 6 Texas A&M

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 22:  Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to pass against the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images

No. 1 Alabama hit Texas A&M in the mouth and the sixth-ranked Aggies responded to take a second half lead on Saturday. Then Alabama hit them again.

And again. And again. And probably another time for good measure.

The Crimson Tide stormed back from a one point second half deficit to throttle yet another top 25 opponent on Saturday, reaffirming their status as the team to beat for the national title with an impressive 33-14 home win.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts started off a little slow and had a handful of freshman mistakes (two picks, one on a Hail Mary) but turned things up after halftime to finish with 166 yards passing and two touchdowns while rushing for another 91 yards and a score. Tight end O.J. Howard became a big part of the Tide’s aerial attack and wound up with a team-leading 70 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Damien Harris chipped in with 128 yards on the ground with an impressive 7.5 yards a carry.

Texas A&M signal-caller Trevor Knight couldn’t quite get his second straight win over Alabama, but did throw for two touchdowns to temporarily stun Bryant Denny Stadium with a brief 14-13 Aggies lead coming out of the locker room at halftime.

Defensive end Jonathan Allen completely turned the game around just before the end of the third quarter however when he scooped and scored on a 30 yard fumble return to put Alabama up by two scores. It was the future first rounder’s second time crossing the goal line this season, the ninth defensive touchdown of the year for the Tide and the 10th straight game in which the team has scored a non-offensive touchdown.

If there was one negative for Alabama to emerge from the contest in the second half it was that safety Eddie Jackson had to be carted off early in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury. He was hurt on a punt return that later setup another touchdown and comes at the one spot where the Tide, all things being relative, is a little thin at.

It probably won’t mean much in the long run given how good Alabama looked down the stretch in winning their 20th straight game. They’ll head into their bye week undefeated and looking to get a little rest before traveling to Baton Rouge to play rival LSU. Texas A&M probably won’t drop too much in the polls with their first loss of the season and, while they are a long shot to win the SEC West, remain in line to make it to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

No. 6 Texas A&M scores late to cut into No. 1 Alabama’s lead at halftime

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 17:  Texas A&M Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin reacts during an NCAA college football game against the Auburn Tigers on September 17, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama controlled the first half of play in their usual dominating fashion… right up until the final minute of the first half in their latest SEC West showdown.

Texas A&M cut into the Tide’s lead with an eight play, 80 yard touchdown drive just before halftime to head into the locker room down just 13-7 in a game much more lopsided than the score would indicate.

Prior to their final drive of the half, the Aggies couldn’t get much of anything going offensively and were averaging under three yards a play as Alabama’s defense dialed up the pressure and had several bone-rattling hits. Quarterback Trevor Knight made a huge run on 4th down as the clock was running out however to setup an eventual touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds that gave the visitors plenty of hope at the midway mark.

On the flip side, Crimson Tide left tackle Cam Robinson won most of his reps against Aggies star pass rusher Myles Garrett (who appeared banged up) in a marquee matchup for the dozens of NFL scouts on hand. Quarterback Jalen Hurts looked good running the ball and hitting intermediate throws but made a freshman mistake when tossing an interception right to linebacker Claude George during the second quarter to halt a drive.

While a nice development for the A&M defense on the play, they did lose a key player in Donovan Wilson as the result of targeting on the interception return and the Aggies offense promptly threw a pick on their first play after the turnover to give the ball right back.

Alabama had several other chances to extend their lead in this one during the first half but couldn’t quite take advantage thanks to some miscues that Nick Saban will no doubt be looking to correct in the locker room. Maybe the late score was just enough for Texas A&M to think they can make this a game in the second half but it should be a fun finish in Tuscaloosa either way for this top 10 matchup.

Power Five conference races beginning to come into focus

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper is seen at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

As we get set to embark on Week 8 of the 2016 college football season, we’re officially beyond the halfway point and closer to championship weekend than we are to opening weekend. And, with that, the Power Five conference races are starting to come into focus — but are far from finished.

This weekend, though, there are a handful of key matchups that could offer further clarity across the major conferences, although most, if not all, are still weeks away from being decided.

That said, here’s a look at where the Power Five conferences and, in four of the five cases, how their respective divisions stand before the eighth weekend of the regular season kicks off.

At 4-0, Clemson currently controls its own destiny in the division courtesy of the Oct. 1 win over 3-1 Louisville.  The U of L will be desperately rooting for Florida State, at 2-2 with one of those league losses coming at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the middle of last month, to knock off Clemson next Saturday as well as the Tigers tripping up in one of their other three remaining conference games (Syracuse, Pitt, at Wake Forest) while also holding serve through the remainder of their slate.  FSU, with league losses to the U of L and North Carolina, will need a minor miracle to get back to the conference championship game.

Technically, 2-2 Wake Forest remains in contention, and still has games against Clemson and Louisville.  Then again, they’re Wake.

In all likelihood, the Coastal will come down to a three-team race: 3-1 North Carolina, 3-1 Virginia Tech and 2-1 Pittsburgh.  Tech has already beaten UNC, and will face Pitt next weekend.  The Tar Heels, meanwhile, own a win over the Panthers to go along with the loss to the Hokies.  Simply put, if Tech wins out (at Pitt, at Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia), they will claim the division and represent the Coastal against their Atlantic counterparts.

As you know, though, this division very rarely plays to the form it presents halfway through the conference season.

With all due respect to 2-1 Penn State, 3-0 Michigan and 3-0 Ohio State are on a collision course for an epic edition of the greatest rivalry in all of college football that will likely not only impact the division and the conference race but the College Football Playoff as well.  PSU could make me eat my words almost immediately as they play host to OSU in the always-dangerous white-out game later tonight; that said, if the Buckeyes can get past the Nittany Lions, they’ll have to traverse home games against Northwestern and Nebraska as well as road trips to Maryland and an abruptly vulnerable Michigan State before hosting UM.  The Wolverines get to host Illinois, Maryland and Indiana along with visits to rival Michigan State and Iowa before The Game.

Like the ACC Coastal, this division’s winner will very (?) likely come from a trio of teams: 3-0 Nebraska, 3-1 Iowa, 2-1 Northwestern.  The Cornhuskers already have a win over the Wildcats, while the Wildcats beat the Hawkeyes on the road the first weekend of this month.  Nebraska will close out the season against Iowa, while the latter has one sizable advantage over the other two as they avoid Ohio State completely while the others will face the Buckeyes in Weeks 9 (Wildcats) and 10 (Cornhuskers).  Both of those games, incidentally, are in Columbus.

There’s a potential wrench that could be tossed into the race, it should be noted, as 1-2 Wisconsin still has games remaining against all three of the West teams mentioned above.  Sweep those and get a little additional help, and the Badgers could be right back in the discussion by the end of the regular season.

BIG 12
Next season, this conference’s champion will be decided by a league title game.  This season, the standard round-robin format will determine the champion, and, because of that and the way the schedule is constructed, this league is as convoluted as any in the sport.

Three members are undefeated at the moment in Baylor and Oklahoma at 3-0, West Virginia at 2-0.  Two others are 2-1 — Oklahoma State and TCU.  How convoluted is the current state of the Big 12 race?  Just two games have been played between those five teams thus far: Baylor beating Oklahoma State and Oklahoma beating TCU.  A third will be played this weekend as the Horned Frogs will travel to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers in a contest that will allow a little — little — clarity when it comes to the conference race.

This could be the most simplistic of all the P5 divisions: barring something extraordinary taking place, the winner of this division will be decided in the Apple Cup between a 3-0 Washington and a 3-0 Washington State.  Or, at the very least, the winner will play in that rivalry game.  And, of all the developments thus far this season, that may be the most stunning.  To put a finer point on this divisional race, the team currently in third place at 2-2, 2015 Pac-12 champion Stanford, lost to both UW and Wazzu by a combined score of 86-22.

Utah and Colorado are tied atop this division at 3-1, with 3-2 USC still in the same neighborhood.  The Utes own a win over the Trojans, while the Trojans own one over the Buffs.  Utah and USC still have Washington on their schedule, while Colorado, which avoids UW, has to play a Washington State team that won’t face either of the other.  One date to circle on the calendar: Nov. 26, with the Utes traveling to Boulder to square off with the Buffs in the regular season finale.

A lot like the Big 12, this race likely won’t be decided until we get deep into November.

Despite its loss to 2-2 Tennessee, 3-1 Florida controls its own destiny in this division.  Win out, and the Gators will earn their second consecutive berth in the SEC championship game.  Their remaining league schedule?  The annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party grudge match with Georgia in Jacksonville, and road trips to No. 17 Arkansas and No. 25 LSU sandwiched around a home game against South Carolina.  UT, though, could easily win out as their lone remaining games consist of South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.  While the Gators are currently in control, their path to Atlanta is much steeper than that of the Vols despite currently sitting in the driver’s seat — and knowing full well that that come-from-ahead loss to UT is riding shotgun.

This might be the most fun division in all of college football.  Again.  Alabama and Texas A&M both sit at 4-0, while Auburn and LSU are at 2-1.  The really, really fun part?  Only A&M and Auburn have met already this year, a Sept. 17 win for the Aggies on The Plains.  The Tide and Aggies meet in a critical matchup this afternoon, but several more critical contests await the division in the coming weeks.

In other words, grab your popcorn.  This thing is far from decided — a sentiment that’s far from the exclusive property of this division.