Alabama wins, but SEC continues to be the ultimate victor

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The “S-E-C!” chant reached a new level of insufferable during Saturday’s game between Alabama and Michigan that didn’t previously seem possible.

At just under five minutes to go in the second quarter, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson threw an ill-advised pass in the shadow of his own end zone to Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley. In fairness to Robinson, Mosley was wide open. But it didn’t matter, Moseley ran 16 yards with the ball for a touchdown. It was the tail end of a 31-point run by Alabama that, when clocked continuously, lasted just over a quarter’s worth of game time.

Just like that, the game felt over. It wasn’t, of course. Eighth-ranked Michigan would mount a couple of scoring drives before eventually falling to No. 2 Alabama 41-14, but the impression was set early.

That’s when the chant started booming through Cowboys Stadium, right after a PAT put Alabama up 31-0.

“S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!”

I’d like to think that this game between two storied programs was just a game between two storied programs. I’d like to think that Alabama is just a top-notch program that can plug in any player at any position and have success against whatever competition it faces. I’d like to think that Nick Saban is just one of the best coaches in college football because of his ability to take away what other teams do well.

Individually, those are all true statements, but collectively they’re not reality. Michigan-Alabama was more than just a game. It was an opportunity to dethrone the SEC by knocking off the defending BCS champion in prime time on national TV — even if it was solely to show that, yes, football’s elite can be beaten one time out of 100, a la “Little Giants.” This country has SEC fatigue, and why wouldn’t it? Six straight BCS championships is a lot to have shoved in your face all the time.

Take No. 14 Clemson’s 26-19 win tonight over Auburn in Atlanta for example. Aubie may be the fourth or fifth-best team in the SEC West, but that’s not what people were talking about. Clemson beat an SEC team, so it’s labeled as a statement win. No other conference has that kind of rapport.

So when a crowd of crimson starts chanting “S-E-C!”, there’s nothing that can be done to stop it because no team’s shown it can on the field when it matters most.

Michigan tried, but the irony is that it was Alabama’s physicality, not necessarily speed, that was the separating factor. The Wolverines have speed too. Robinson had some signature open field runs on a couple of occasions, and Michigan’s receivers got behind coverage from time to time. But Robinson can’t throw the ball well enough to keep most opponents on their heels consistently and no one’s going to run sideline to sideline against Alabama successfully.

There’s nothing too complicated about it: Alabama was the better team with a favorable matchup. It doesn’t guarantee that one’s going to be more successful than the other going forward, but the storyline of the Big Ten vs. SEC is always a compelling one, so that’s what it was about tonight.

And the SEC won. Again.

Eventually, an SEC team will lose a Cowboys Classic or championship game. It has to happen. When that day comes, it’ll feel like a national holiday to everyone outside that part of the country.

Until then, all any of us can do is shrug our shoulders when the chant starts up again.

Ohio State led nation for total fan attendance in 2017, Michigan tops in average attendance at home

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In some not exactly breaking news, there are a lot of Ohio State fans out there. Not to be left out, their rivals to the North have quite a few people following the team in maize and blue too.

The National Football Foundation released an interesting set of facts and figures last week that was designed to call attention to just how popular the sport of college football is across the country. The whole list is worth a look if you’re interested in all the little details about the 2017 season but a few of the big highlights are:

  • Ohio State led the nation for total fan attendance, attracting 1,254,160 spectators to all of their games in 2017, including home, away, neutral and postseason tilts. Eleven other teams eclipsed the million mark in 2017: Georgia (1,246,201), Alabama (1,228,376), Auburn, Penn State, Michigan, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Clemson and Texas.
  • Michigan led all FBS schools again with an average attendance of 111,589 fans per home game in 2017. Three other schools also averaged more than 100,000 fans per game: Ohio State (107,495), Penn State (106,707) and Alabama (101,722). The Wolverines have led the nation in home attendance for 41 of the past 43 seasons.
  • The SEC led all FBS conferences in attendance for the 20th straight year, averaging 75,074 fans per game or a total of 7,357,228 in 2017, followed by the Big Ten (66,227), Big 12 (56,852), Pac-12 (49,601) and the ACC (48,442).
  • The overall attendance for NCAA football games across all divisions (FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III) drew 47,622,196 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2017. The number represents a 3.3 percent drop from the 2016 season.

There’s a bunch more in there from the NFF on everything from TV ratings to fan interest and a bunch of other nuggets. Needless to say, college football is pretty popular around the country and we at CFTalk certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.

LB Andrew Ward becomes latest Nebraska player to announce plans to transfer out

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Everybody figured that Scott Frost’s arrival with a new way of doing things in Lincoln would prompt a few transfers out of the program but the latest name to leave Nebraska is on the defensive side of the ball as linebacker Andrew Ward became the latest name to announce a transfer after just a year with the Cornhuskers.

As Ward mentions in his post, he was originally recruited to the school by the prior coaching staff under Mike Riley. He redshirted as a freshman in 2017 and seemed to fall down the pecking order at his position during spring practice. Originally from Michigan, the linebacker was rated as a three-star coming out of high school according to 247Sports and held offers from Penn State and Virginia Tech among others.

Ward adds to the growing list of roster turnover this offseason for the Cornhuskers. Also on Saturday it was confirmed that center Michael Decker was retiring from football, while wideout Kenyan Williams, fullback Ben Miles, quarterback Patrick O’Brien, and receiver Zack Darlington all announced intentions to leave the program.

Former Alabama OL Dallas Warmack confirms graduate transfer to Oregon

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Reunited and it feels so good.

At least, that’s what Mario Cristobal must be feeling after hearing the good news on Saturday that former Alabama offensive lineman Dallas Warmack had committed to Oregon and would be rejoining his old offensive line coach in Eugene.

Warmack appeared in 16 games during his career with the Crimson Tide but couldn’t crack the rotation in 2017. A former top recruit and U.S. Army All-American as a prep, he will have two years of eligibility remaining with the Ducks and figures to solidify an offensive line that could be among the best in the conference with four players returning with starting experience.

If that last name and Alabama connection sounds familiar, you’d be correct in thinking that Warmack is the younger brother of Chance Warmack — a former top 10 pick who recently won the Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles this past season. Cristobal, who is now Oregon’s head coach, was on the staff in Tuscaloosa when the younger Warmack was originally recruited to the school.

1959 Heisman Trophy winner, LSU legend Billy Cannon passes away at 80

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One of the best players to ever put on an LSU football uniform has passed away as the school confirmed that legendary Tigers star and the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon died on Sunday morning at the age of 80.

Cannon was well known for his versatility on the gridiron, playing halfback, fullback, tight end, defensive back and as a return man over the years. His electrifying 89–yard punt return for a touchdown in the final minutes win over No. 3 Ole Miss on Halloween is widely regarded as one of the biggest plays in LSU history and played a key role in him winning the 1959 Heisman Trophy.  He had powered the Tigers to the national title the year prior as part of a storied undefeated run that was capped off by a win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl where Cannon scored the game’s only points.

After his college career, Cannon was selected as the first overall pick in both the 1960 NFL and AFL Drafts and played professionally for the Houston Oilers, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. He was inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1975 and the the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

A mainstay at games and practices in Baton Rouge over the years, Cannon later became a dentist in the area and eventually had his No. 20 retired by LSU.