Tide runs & rolls over UGA, into title game

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From the moment it became unofficially official that the winner of the SEC championship game would earn a spot in the BCS title game, most individuals without a definitive lean toward the Red & Black had already penciled in Alabama as the team opposite Notre Dame in South Beach.

Tuscaloosans, you may unofficially officially break out the Sharpies.

Armed with a punishing running game for which the Georgia defense simply had no answer, the No. 2 Tide rolled over, around and through the No. 3 Bulldogs in claiming their second SEC championship under Nick Saban.  In the 32-28 win, the Tide set an SEC title-game record with 350 yards rushing, although, in an ironic twist, it was a breathtaking 45-yard AJ McCarron-to-Amari Cooper connection with just over three minutes left that proved to be the knockout punch for the defending national champions.

With the win — the closest margin of victory in the SEC title game since 1997 — the Tide sets itself up for an unprecedented third BcS title in four years.  And set the nation up for a BCS title game for the ages, a North vs. South showdown with the Fighting Irish carrying the potential to shatter records for both ratings on game day and vitriol spewed in the weeks leading up to the first week of January.

The Jan. 7 matchup for all the crystal will mark the first game between the two storied programs since 1987.

Alabama’s destination is now known; the late-game road the Tide took to get there?  Much to the detriment of the UGA coaching staff and the angst of the fan base, it will be discussed for months, if not years, to come.

While the player of the game was undoubtedly and literally Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the Tide’s win…  and while the play of the game came off the right arm of a battle-tested veteran into the hands of a fresh-faced freshman… all the while UGA fans will be lamenting what could’ve been courtesy of late-game clock management that only a Kiffin could love.

Taking over at their own 15-yard line with 1:08 left down by four and with no timeouts, the Bulldogs drove down to the Tide eight-yard line, the last 26 coming on an Aaron Murray-to-Arthur Lynch completion with under 20 seconds left.  With the clock stopped for the chains to move for the first down, most expected UGA to hustle to the line, spike the ball with 10-15 seconds left and give themselves at least two, probably three shots at the end zone.

Instead, and inexplicably, Georgia ran a play.  On a pass that was supposed to be a fade-type route into the end zone, it was instead tipped at the line and dropped into the arms of Chris Conley, who dropped to the turf before reaching the sidelines to stop the clock.  With no timeouts remaining, all UGA could do was watch the clock expire on their hopes of a first national championship in more than three decades.

The play in and of itself certainly didn’t cost the Bulldogs the game; their run defense shoulders most of that load.  It did, though, arm Mark Richt‘s detractors with additional ammunition.

However, the end of the game shouldn’t take away the effort both teams spilled on the Georgia Dome turf.  And the history the Alabama Crimson Tide is on the verge of making — becoming the first team to win three titles in four years in the BCS era.

Their opponent will also be looking to stake their claim to some of their own history, with Notre Dame out to break a tie for most-ever Associated Press titles.  The team with which they’re tied at eight?  Alabama.

Roll Tide Roll.  Play Like A Champion Today.

A title game for the ages indeed.

Les Koenning is Les Miles’ second OC hire at Kansas

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For the second time this offseason, a Koenning has been added to a new Power Five coaching staff.  And, for the second time since taking over in Lawrence two months ago, Les Miles has hired an offensive coordinator.

Jan. 10, Troy announced that Chip Lindsey, hired by Miles as Kansas’ offensive coordinator the month before, would take over as the Sun Belt program’s head football coach and replace Neal Brown, who left to take the head job at West Virginia.  Two weeks after Lindsay’s departure, KU confirmed Tuesday that Les Koenning will take over for Lindsey as the Jayhawks’ coordinator.

Koenning, whose cousin, Vic Koenning, was named as WVU’s defensive coordinator by Brown earlier this month, spent the 2018 season as the running backs coach at Southern Miss.

“We are so excited to add an offensive coordinator with the experience of Les Koenning,” said Miles in a statement. “He has proven to be an innovative offensive mind who has great success recruiting and developing offensive skill players, particularly at the quarterback position.”

Koenning has served as the coordinator at six stops at the FBS level — UAB (2016-17), Mississippi State (2009-13), Texas A&M (2003-07), Alabama (2001-02), Houston (1999) and Duke (1998).

QB Nick Starkel taking a grad transfer out of Texas A&M

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You can add yet another name to the burgeoning free-agent quarterback pool.

Tuesday night, Nick Starkel used a tweet to announce that he has decided to transfer from Texas A&M and “will explore finishing my final two years of eligibility at another program.” Starkel will graduate from A&M this June, which would make him eligible to use the first of those two years of eligibility immediately in 2019.

Starkel was the Aggies’ starter to open the 2017 season, but suffered a broken ankle in that game that sidelined him for nearly two months.  It turned out to not be a season-ending injury as Starkel returned to start the last four games of Kevin Sumlin‘s final season in College Station, a late-season stint that included a career-high 499-yard effort in a Belk Bowl loss to Wake Forest.

Entering the 2018 offseason as the incumbent, but with a new head coach in Jimbo Fisher in place, Starkel lost the starting job to Kellen Mond and played in just five games this past season — the first four of 2018 plus the bowl game.  In those appearances, the redshirt sophomore completed 15-of-22 passes for a touchdown.

The A&M portion of his playing career will end with the Texas native having totaled 1,962 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions on 138–of-227 passing.

Deion Sanders’ son, a three-star 2019 recruit, commits to South Carolina

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Barring a change of heart in the next couple of weeks, there won’t be a Primetime legacy in Tallahassee this coming season.

In October of last year, Shilo Sanders, the son of former Florida State great and College Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, received a scholarship offer from his father’s alma mater.  three months later, the elder Sanders, a 2019 prospect, announced via video that he has committed to playing his college football at South Carolina.

The defensive back’s decision to commit to the Gamecocks came not long after a second visit to Columbia.

While holding an offer from FSU, Sanders chose USC over a group of schools that included Colorado State, Nebraska and Tennessee.  He was also offered by, among others, Georgia, Oregon, Oregon State and UCF.

CSU was the only other school to which he took an official visit.

The elder Sanders is the offensive coordinator at his son Shilo’s school, Cedar Hill (Tex.) Trinity Christian High School.  Shilo’s younger brother, 2021 prospect Shedeur Sanders, is a wide receiver at the school as well.

Shilo Sanders is rated as a three-star recruit on 247Sports.com’s composite board for the 2019 cycle.

Mississippi State officially adds UConn RBs coach

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Not long after losing a position coach to an SEC West rival, Joe Moorhead turned to an area of the country familiar to him to fill his Mississippi State staff void.

Tuesday, MSU announced that Terry Richardson has been hired by Moorhead to serve as the Bulldogs’ running backs coach.  Additionally, Richardson will hold the title of assistant head coach.

Richardson will replace Charles Huff, who’s expected to move on to a job on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff.  That move has yet to be confirmed by the Crimson Tide.

“Terry has coached running backs for nearly 20 years at both the college and NFL levels,” Moorhead said in a statement. “He has a firm grasp of our offense and will maximize the potential we have in our running backs room. Having played and coached in the NFL, he understands what it takes to develop players for the next level. Terry is also a dynamic recruiter with proven experience in the South, especially in the state of Florida. We are excited to welcome someone of Terry’s caliber to the Mississippi State family.”

The past two seasons, Richardson was the running backs coach at UConn.  He’s also spent time in that position on staffs at Maryland (2015), Miami (2011-12) and again at UConn (1999-2010).  During that first stint with the Huskies, Moorhead was that team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

From 2013-14, he was the running backs for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

“This is a great opportunity to work with great people at an outstanding university in the best conference in America,” Richardson said. “I am excited to reconnect with Coach Moorhead and work with him again. He is a tremendous football coach and an even better person. We will be well-versed on all five phases of running back play, and our group will maximize our opportunities to make a major impact in winning football games.”