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LOOK: Alabama channels SpongeBob in response to Daniel Carlson claiming state championship for Auburn

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Don’t you just love the offseason and its delightful little Twitter spats? Yeah, me neither.

Appearing on the Paul Finebaum radio show Tuesday, former Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson created a mini-stir by proclaiming that, while rival Alabama may be the national champions, AU is the reigning champion of the state of Alabama.

Technically, Carlson is correct as the Tigers downed the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl to claim the mythical state championship… before getting drilled by Georgia in the SEC championship game, opening the door for their in-state rivals to claim a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Alabama, of course, took advantage of the opportunity by beating top-ranked Clemson in one of the semifinals and then topping Georgia in an epic title game for the football program’s 17th national championship (Auburn claims two, incidentally).

Tuesday, while Carlson was staking his claim on the airwaves, Alabama was at the White House being feted by President Donald Trump. Wednesday, Alabama’s Twitter account responded to the kicker’s pronouncement.

On a completely unrelated note, the 2018 college football season kicks off in exactly 136 days.

Iron Bowl coaching: Alabama reportedly hires son of Auburn DC Kevin Steele

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The Iron Bowl is one of the most intense rivalries in sports and particularly when it comes to college football. In addition to splitting the state into red and orange during the fall, it can often split up entire families depending on their rooting interests.

It seems one family will be joining those ranks… on the coaching side.

AL.com reports that Alabama has added yet another offensive analyst to the Tide’s ranks in the form of Gordon Steele. If that last name sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because Gordon is the son of Auburn defensive coordinator and longtime SEC coaching veteran Kevin Steele.

The younger Steele won a national title as an offensive lineman at Valdosta State a little over a decade ago and most recently served as a graduate assistant at South Alabama. He also has a stint as a full-time assistant coach at Murray State prior to the stop in Mobile.

The elder Steele is no stranger to Alabama or Nick Saban of course. He was the Tide’s defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 and returned to Tuscaloosa for a second stint as an assistant in 2013 and 2014. He’s been on the Plains since 2016 and has led a nice resurgence on that side of the ball for the Tigers, which included clamping down on Alabama in an Iron Bowl win last season that gave the team the SEC West title.

Something says that the Steele family will be a little more radio silent this year and especially so on that final week of the regular season when Auburn and Alabama meet again in the Iron Bowl.

Ex-Auburn TE Landon Rice transfers to Alabama FCS team

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The latest addition to one FCS team comes with some off-field baggage, to say the least.

Jacksonville State confirmed Monday night that it has added Landon Rice to its football roster.  The tight end had spent the 2017 season at a Mississippi junior college after parting ways with his original Power Five home under a cloud of controversy.

In early September of 2016, Rice left the Auburn football program for what were initially described as “personal reasons.” It was subsequently reported that Rice had been accused of first-degree rape.

A 19-year-old female filed a police report July 27, 2016, accusing Rice of raping her three months earlier at an on-campus residence hall and sought a protective order against him Sept. 12, with a temporary order issued three days later.

The attorney for Rice issued a statement shortly after the accusations came to light in which he labeled the allegations as “false” and that his client has been “vilified” and “unfairly treated” because of them.  In response to that statement, the lawyer for the unnamed 19-year-old allegedly raped by Rice released a series of text messages between the player and alleged victim in which the former apologized to the latter on multiple occasions.

Rice had denied any wrongdoing through his lawyer; while he was never charged in connection with the allegations, a Title IX investigation found him to be responsible for sexual assault and, as a result, he was barred from the AU campus until 2024.  However, those restrictions were rescinded in September of last year, which Landon’s new school alluded to in its statement on the player’s addition to the roster.

Jacksonville State University conducted a very thorough investigation surrounding all of the facts on Landon Rice, just like we do on any of our recruits. After speaking with several officials from Auburn University and getting all of the facts surrounding the investigation, and after meeting with Landon, we decided to allow Landon to enroll at JSU and join our football program.

“On September 26, 2017, all sanctions imposed upon Landon as a result of a Title IX investigation expired and Landon was returned to the status of ‘good standing’ at Auburn University. The matter and all proceedings therein have been concluded, according to a memo dated November 7, 2017, from Kelley Taylor, Director AA/EEO and Title IX Coordinator at Auburn University.

“We have high standards for all of our student-athletes and we do our due diligence on all recruits before they join any of our athletics teams at Jacksonville State and Landon was treated the same. Privacy laws prevents us from releasing more details on the investigation.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, Rice was rated as the No. 8 tight end in the country.  He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice and was expected to contribute as a true freshman before the off-field issue derailed those plans.

No. 6 Auburn seizes SEC West with upset of No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl

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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.

No. 6 Auburn holds slim halftime lead over No. 1 Alabama in closely contested Iron Bowl

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The winner of the Iron Bowl has played in the national title game every year save one since 2009 and that looks like it will be the case once again given the high level of play in the first half between the two in-state rivals on the Plains this Saturday afternoon.

While the score was a bit lower than some expected coming into the game, No. 6 Auburn managed to score some points late in order to hold a slim 10-7 lead at the break and what is shaping up to be yet another classic in a series that has produced plenty of memorable moments.

Auburn’s first scoring drive began with the team backed up against their own goal line inside the 10 but several big plays (and big completions) allowed them to quickly move down to the other end of the field before running back Kerryon Johnson executed a perfect jump pass to a wide open Nate Craig-Myers just in front of the goal post. It’s not often you see Alabama’s defense give up 12 play, 94 yard drives but that was quite the scene-setter for the home side — which was fired up in the middle of the effort thanks to appearances from alums Charles Barkley and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Both sides exchanged quarterback fumbles over the next few drives before Alabama evened the scored following a key fourth down conversion just past midfield. That’s when signal-caller Jalen Hurts (4-of-8, 51 yards passing, 38 yards rushing) tossed a 36 yard bomb to Jerry Jeudy in the back of the end zone, with the young freshman creating just enough separation to haul in the touchdown and swing momentum back to the Tide’s side. In addition to the stingy defense played by Nick Saban’s team, punter J.K. Scott proved to be quite the weapon with three punts that averaged 49 yards a piece to help Alabama win the field position battle in a big way.

The visitors from Tuscaloosa do get the ball to start the second half and, while it won’t be brought up in the locker room by either coaching staff, the stakes over the final frame are absolutely massive for both sides. The winner will capture the SEC West title, a trip to Atlanta for the conference championship game and a potential berth in the College Football Playoff so it goes without saying that the pressure is about to be turned up several notches in the next few hours.