Predictions 101 — BCS championship game

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No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama
Mon., Jan. 7 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Miami, Fla. – Sun Life Stadium

This one certainly has the marquee value befitting college football’s Super Bowl.

Alabama (12-1) has put its name on 14 national championships, including two in the last three years. Notre Dame (12-0) is gunning to claim its 12th title, which would be its first since 1988.

If the Crimson Tide are able to become the first-ever BCS repeat national champ, you’ll have to go back more than 60 years to find a school that won three titles in a four year span, which was none other than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1946, 1947, 1949).

It truly is a heavyweight battle and both teams appropriately qualified for this massive clash because of their excellent defensive units.

Alabama ranks first nationally in total defense and rushing defense, second in scoring defense and sixth in passing defense.

Notre Dame has a similar résumé, ranking first in scoring defense, fourth in rushing defense, sixth in total defense and 21st in pass defense.

Both teams allow less than 11 points per game (Alabama 10.7, Notre Dame 10.3). We won’t spend any time quibbling about the difference in the opposition. Games are games and wins are wins. Both units are exceptional.

It’s on offense where we find distinct separation.

In its last game, Notre Dame kicked five field goals and scored only one touchdown in a nail-biting 22-13 victory over middle-of-the-Pac USC. Yes, the same USC that was quarterbacked by Max Wittek instead of Matt Barkley. Yes, the same USC that had a pair of Kiffins leading the underachieving offense (Lane) and defense (Monte) all season.

Alabama’s last game was quite different. It wasn’t flawless football, but when the chips were down, Bama simply bowled over Georgia. The Crimson Tide ran the football 51 times against the Bulldogs, with the majority of those carries coming when Georgia fully expected the same zone running play. Nonetheless, Alabama finished with a whopping 350 yards on the ground against a unit that reportedly features nine NFL caliber defenders.

The Crimson Tide’s ability to run between the tackles with the linemen routinely getting to the second level was amazing. Irish inside linebacker Manti Te’o and his cohorts will have their hands full, getting off blocks and trying to bring down Alabama’s one-two punch of warrior running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

We respect the job that the Irish have done against the run, allowing only two rushing touchdowns this season, but we ain’t talking Wake Forest here. Alabama has scored 35 rushing touchdowns and the Tide won’t be denied.

Notre Dame will be forced to stack the box to slow the Tide’s roll on the ground, but that’s dangerous business for a suspect secondary. At any moment, Alabama freshman wideout Amari Cooper can blow the top off your defense on the outside. Just ask Georgia.

The Irish are solid and balanced on offense, but not good enough to take advantage of Alabama’s few frailties.

Teams have been able to pass against the Tide, but that’s after establishing a running game. We don’t think the Irish will be able to do that and will end up one-dimensional. If that’s the case, we have little confidence that redshirt freshman Everett Golson will be able to a do a “Johnny Football” on the Tide.

Nick Saban’s defense has the size and strength to match up well with Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and the athleticism on the outside to contain Golson.

Irish fans will contend that the Tide looked vulnerable in the SEC title game and that they would have lost if Georgia could have gotten another snap off.

This is true, but that fact actually works against the Irish. The Tide know that they didn’t play their best game against the Bulldogs. They don’t need Saban to remind them of that … but he will and there will be lots of fine tuning going on in Tuscaloosa.

The Irish beat representatives from five BCS conferences en route to 12-0, but not anybody from THE BCS conference. Until now. They’ll meet their match and then some.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 9 1/2

The pick: Alabama 24-13

Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.

Scott Frost says RB Maurice Washington not part of Nebraska’s plans ‘in the immediate future’

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Maurice Washington played in Nebraska’s most recent game, a 34-7 loss to No. 12 Minnesota on Oct. 12, toting the ball six times for 20 yards in the setback.

However, the running back has not practiced with the team since that game and is apart from the team indefinitely, Scott Frost revealed Monday.

What’s notable here is Frost said Washington’s absence is not related to the running back’s pending court date in California, where he is accused of violating the state’s revenge-porn laws. As our own John Taylor summarized the issue just a few short days ago:

It’s alleged that Washington sent a sexually-explicit 10-second video, recorded two years prior by someone other than Washington, involving a then-15-year-old female and two other boys, neither of whom was Washington, to that same female in early March of 2018. The female has claimed she is being sexually assaulted in the video, which allegedly shows the teenager performing oral sex on one boy while another masturbates.

Washington is facing a felony count of possessing a video or photograph of a person under 18 who is engaging in or simulating sexual conduct and a misdemeanor count of posting a video or photograph of a person engaging in or simulating sexual conduct without consent, leading to the person suffering emotional distress. Washington had dated the alleged victim prior to the video being recorded.

If facing a felony count of disseminating a sexually explicit video involving a 15-year-old girl doesn’t qualify as “non-negotiable,” one has to wonder what exactly Washington did to get himself removed from Nebraska’s team this time around. One would have to assume it’s something serious; otherwise, why would Nebraska go through the trouble to keep a player, only to give him a soft boot for, say, sleeping through a workout?

As it stands, the sophomore from Stockton, Calif., ranks second among Husker running backs with 50 carries for 298 yards and one touchdown. Time will tell if that number changes over the remainder of the season.

It’s official: LSU-Alabama moving to daytime for the first time since 2010

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Astute observers of college football’s television contracts (read: nerds) perked up when CBS announced over the summer it had chosen Notre Dame’s Sept. 21 visit to Georgia as its annual primetime selection, meaning LSU’s Nov. 9 trip to Alabama would likely be played under sunshine for the first time since 2010.

However, there remained a question that CBS could work a backroom deal with ESPN to get Tigers-Tide in prime time, like it did back in 2011 when CBS initially used its annual primetime pick on Florida-Alabama and then nabbed LSU-Alabama when it became apparent that would be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game. With history repeating itself on the field — Alabama is No. 1 in the AP poll, LSU is No. 2 — one had to wonder if history could also repeat itself in the boardroom.

That question was answered Monday, when CBS announced LSU-Alabama on Nov. 9 will indeed be played in the SEC on CBS’s traditional time slot of 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT.

Playing the Crimson Tide in daylight could be a good omen for LSU. The Tigers, losers of seven straight primetime affairs, won the most recent afternoon kickoff, a 24-21 decision on Nov. 6, 2010.

Mark Richt suffers heart attack, says he’s ‘doing fine’

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From the outside, it seems as if Mark Richt is the most relaxed, stress-free person in the entire college football universe. In 18 seasons as the head coach at Georgia and Miami, Richt had an inner peace and perspective that never seemed to let the stresses of the job get to him in the way it did most other coaches or people in similar high-stakes gigs.

Now, he’s very much living that retired multi-millionaire life.

That’s why it was so surprising when Richt announced Monday he suffered a heart attack earlier this morning.

“I am assuming word travels fast,” he tweeted. “So I wanted to be able to inform everyone that I did have a heart attack this morning. I am doing fine. As I went through the experience I had peace knowing I was going to heaven but I was going to miss my wife. I plan to be at work this week.”

While Monday’s news was obviously frightening, it’s comforting to know Richt survived and will hopefully be around to eat many, many more cheese balls on the beach.

 

‘GameDay’ making maiden voyage to South Dakota State

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The Football Championship Subdivision recently made a coordinated, nationwide push for ESPN’s “College GameDay” to pay its brand of football more attention. That push has quickly paid off.

ESPN announced Sunday that “GameDay” will make its first ever visit to Brookings, S.D., as No. 3 South Dakota State hosts No. 1 North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are 6-1 this season, losing only to FBS No. 17 Minnesota 28-21 to open the season and then running off six straight victories by an average of 24.3 points. North Dakota State is 7-0 on the season with four victories over FCS top-20 opponents.

South Dakota State should send flowers to Wisconsin, who lost to Illinois ahead of their visit to No. 3 Ohio State, to Michigan, who lost to Penn State before hosting No. 8 Notre Dame, and to ESPN for their recent visit to Baton Rouge, making a return visit for No. 9 Auburn at No. 2 LSU seem too redundant.

“GameDay” last visited an FCS site on Oct. 14, 2017, as No. 1 James Madison hosted Villanova.

Saturday will mark North Dakota State’s third “GameDay” appearance, passing Harvard for the most among FCS teams. The Bison won both of their previous appearances, a 51-0 drubbing of Delaware State on Sept. 21, 2013, and a 58-0 blowout of Incarnate Word on Sept. 13, 2014.