A.J. McCarron proves he’s more than a ‘game manager’

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Unfairly, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was labeled a game manager. Coincidentally, he earned it in last season’s BCS championship game against LSU when he played solid, mistake-free football. With an All-American offensive line, a stable of elite running backs and a defense stocked with talent, the pressure’s never really been on the second-year starter to lead a two-minute drill or make the big throws.

But, eventually, it’s going to happen. Every team needs their quarterback to win at least one game for them. Down 17-14 to LSU Saturday night in Death Valley with 1:34 remaining, the Tide needed McCarron to be more than a game manager. And he was. A lot more. The junior completed four of five passes over 72 yards in 43 seconds, the final one a screen pass to running back T.J. Yeldon for 28-yard touchdown.

It was a perfect play call. Less than a minute later, No. 1 Alabama did what few teams have done against Les Miles: go into Baton Rouge at night and come out with a 21-17 win over the No. 5 Tigers.

John will have a special “Fifth Quarter” sifting through the aftermath of what was easily the best game of the day coming up here in a bit; this here is all about McCarron.

He wasn’t all great. McCarron was hot and cold all night and the Tide usually went as he did. In fact, if not for his game-winning drive, this would have been about the proverbial light coming on for Zach Mettenberger. The first-year starter for LSU played his best game of the season, throwing for 298 yards and a touchdown. It was the way college football pundits all over the country thought Mettenberger, the supposed “missing piece” for the Tigers, should have looked all year.

Mettenberger deserves a lot of praise for the way he played tonight, and if you’re going to assess who had the better game between the two QBs, Mettenberger would win that distinction. But McCarron won what really mattered, when it mattered. Now, and with all due respect to the likes of Tennessee and Mississippi State, the Tide have a victory over its first “real test” of 2012. There shouldn’t have been any mistake before, but there’s certainly none now: Alabama is playing like the best team in the country. Keep winning and a second consecutive BCS championship appearance — the third under Nick Saban — is guaranteed to be in play.

Who knows what challenges Alabama will face to get there — maybe they won’t — but they’ll have a chance as long as McCarron’s taking snaps.

After tonight, he’s going to be known as a game-changer.

South Alabama stadium effort loses Mobile city council vote

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South Alabama would like to build a new stadium. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an FBS program in more need of a new playing facility than the Jaguars. USA plays in Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which hits the trifecta of bad stadium arrangements:

A) Too big. (Ladd-Peebles holds 45,000. South Alabama’s proposed new stadium would hold 25,000.)
B) Too old. (Ladd-Peebles opened in 1948.)
C) Too far. (Google says it’s a 20-minute drive from campus.)

The school and the city have partnered on a proposal that would require $10 million of Mobile’s dollars over the course of a 20-year period, in exchange for $2.5 million from USA to Mobile earmarked for improvements to Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Mobile’s city council held a vote on Tuesday, and the package failed by a 4-3 tally.

“I am disappointed with today’s decision. It sends a message to the NFL that the City does not support the Senior Bowl. It leaves Ladd Stadium with zero funding to create a facility that meets the needs of the neighborhood and the four high school football teams that play there. It leaves the City with no plan to solve the $33 million maintenance issue,” Mobile mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement. “Ladd will now have to compete with every other public facility fighting for funding. Over the course of the next 10 years, the City will accumulate $225 million in maintenance costs. This window of opportunity is gone, but we will continue to have to make tough choices on how we fund our public facilities.”

South Alabama’s stadium is expected to cost between $70 and $80 million. USA had no immediate comment on the vote. “I’m wishing South Alabama well, I’m hopeful they will be able to do what they need to do when they need to do it,” city council member Gina Gregory told AL.com.

Report: Texas in discussions for home-and-homes with Georgia, Penn State

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Texas would like to play Texas A&M at some point down the road. Tom Herman will tell you that. So will Chris Del Conte. Problem is, “down the road” keeps getting pushed, well, down the road.

The Longhorns are all booked up through 2027 and, according to Chip Brown of Horns247, more elite non-conference series are on the way.

Brown reported Tuesday that Texas is in discussions to play Georgia, most likely in 2028-29, and Penn State and Clemson, with a 2030-31 series against the Nittany Lions looking most likely. Writes Brown:

Texas officials have had discussions with Clemson, an opponent the Longhorns have never faced, about a possible home-and-home in 2030 and 2031, the source said. But UT might be closer to a deal to play home-and-home with Penn State in 2030 and 2031, the source said.

As of right now, neither UT nor A&M has a marquee non-conference opponent on the docket for 2028 or beyond:

Texas Future Non-Conference Opponents
2019: vs. LSU
2020: at LSU
2021: at Arkansas
2022: vs. Alabama
2023: at Alabama
2024: at Michigan
2025: Ohio State
2026: at Ohio State
2027: Michigan

Texas A&M Future Non-Conference Opponents
2019: at Clemson
2020: Colorado
2021: at Colorado
2022: Miami
2023: at Miami
2024: Notre Dame
2025: at Notre Dame
2026: Arizona State
2027: at Arizona State

Texas and Georgia have played four times previously. The Longhorns won the first three but the Bulldogs took the most consequential meeting, a 10-9 victory in the 1984 Cotton Bowl that, thanks to No. 5 Miami’s upset of No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl later that New Year’s Day, cost No. 2 Texas its fourth national championship, instead allowing the upstart Hurricanes to win their first of four national titles over the next nine seasons.

Penn State holds a 3-2 advantage over Texas, including the most recent meeting, a 39-15 whipping in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl. Texas and Clemson have never played.

Georgia, Oregon to open 2022 season in Atlanta

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The 2018 season will open with a rare intersectional matchup were a Pacific Northwest team travels across the country to meet an SEC team in its backyard. And now the 2022 season will as well.

With No. 6 Washington and No. 9 Auburn just 11 days away from their meeting in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta, Oregon and Georgia are officially set to do the same four years from now.

“Both coaches wanted to do it, and we got with the athletic directors and were able to put a deal together,” Peach Bowl, Inc., CEO Gary Stokan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are ecstatic about having Georgia and Oregon.”

The Ducks and Dogs have met once previously, a 27-16 Georgia win on Sept. 10, 1977 in Athens.

The 2022 game, set for Sept. 3, will be Georgia’s fourth appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at its home away from home. The Bulldogs lost to Boise State to open the 2011 season, beat North Carolina in 2016 — Kirby Smart‘s first game as head coach — and will face Virginia to open 2020.

It will be Oregon’s first Chick-fil-A Kickoff appearance, though the Ducks did open 2011 with a loss to LSU in the Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium. Oregon will return to Dallas to open next season against Auburn.

“It’s a great honor for our program to open the 2022 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game and to play a great program, like Georgia,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said in a statement. “As we continue to grow this program we want to challenge ourselves against the best competition. I’m also extremely excited for our fans to make the trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and put their passion for the Ducks on full display.”

Oregon’s 2022 non-conference slate is now complete; the Ducks will host Eastern Washington and BYU in the weeks immediately following their Georgia opener. Georgia still has one opening for 2022. In addition to Oregon, the Bulldogs host Kent State on Sept. 24 and Georgia Tech on Nov. 26.

Future Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game schedule:

2018: Auburn vs. Washington
2019: Alabama vs. Duke
2020: Florida State vs. West Virginia (Saturday), Georgia vs. Virginia (Monday)
2021: Alabama vs. Miami, Louisville vs. Ole Miss
2022: Georgia vs. Oregon

 

JUCO transfer Will Jackson abruptly leaves Nebraska after two months

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That certainly didn’t last long.  At all.

In June of this year, Will Jackson joined the Nebraska football program as a junior college transfer.  Less than two months later, an NU official has confirmed that the defensive back has departed Scott Frost‘s team.

Jackson’s standing on the Cornhuskers’ depth chart is believed to be behind the decision to leave.

“We appreciate the competition Will helped incorporate into the room and we wish him the best,” a very brief statement from the team read.

The move, the Lincoln Journal Star noted, came just a day after secondary coach Travis Fisher said Jackson had been slower than some of the other defensive backs to learn the playbook.

The 6-3, 200-pound Jackson was originally a two-star 2015 signee at Kentucky, but was dismissed by the Wildcats in February of 2016 for unspecified violations of team rules.  The cornerback originally moved on the Iowa Western before abruptly leaving that team for Mesa (Ariz.) Community College.

Jackson is the 11th player to leave Frost’s program this offseason.  The other 10 are offensive lineman Bryan Brokop, wide receiver Zack Darlington (HERE) offensive lineman Michael Decker (HERE), tight end David Engelhaupt (HERE), linebacker Willie Hampton (HERE), fullback Ben Miles (HERE), quarterback Patrick O’Brien (HERE), tight end Matt Snyder (HERE) inside linebacker Andrew Ward (HERE) and wide receiver Keyan Williams (HERE).  Eight of those 10 transferred, while one of the remaining two, Decker, retired from football and the other, Darlington, joined the Army.