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.

Nevada RB coach David White reportedly takes head coaching job with Mississippi high school

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We’ve seen an increasing influx of coaches who make the jump from the high school head coaching level into the college assistant ranks but those going in the opposite direction are few and far between.

You can apparently add one name to the list however as Nevada running backs coach David White has apparently been named as the next head coach/athletic director at a high school in the state of Mississippi.

Per the Meridian Star:

Needless to say, the timing could certainly be better in the middle of the spring but White has extensive experience at the high school level. He was head coach at Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman for several years and was also involved in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as well. In addition to handling the running backs, White also led Nevada’s recruiting efforts too.

It’s unclear what direction head coach Jay Norvell will take with a replacement but he at least has an option on his current staff in Vai Taua, a former tailback at the school who is serving as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel and Recruiting.

Show me the money: Pac-12 seeking $750 million investment after bid book surfaces

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The Pac-12 hasn’t hired Jerry Maguire but they certainly are channelling their inner Rod Tidwell by asking others to show them the money.

Like, a lot of it.

According to an official investment bid book obtained by Sports Business Journal, the conference is seeking a whopping $750 million from investors as they go full steam ahead on a unique equity sale for the league’s media rights and TV networks. News of the plan first surfaced back in late December courtesy of the Oregonian but a skeptical $500 million figure was thrown around.

The Pac-12 appears to be nearly doubling down instead, seeking three-quarters of a billion in exchange for a stake in a new holding company controlling Pac-12 Networks and the conference’s other media rights.

“I would say that we’re, after today, just beyond exploring. We’re actively moving forward reviewing serious offers for this opportunity. And we heard from Joe Ravitch, co-founder of the Raine Group, today about the work they’ve done in recent weeks to find us potential partners,” Colorado chancellor Philip DiStefano said at the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament last week, confirming the process. “He told us that there’s significant interest for multiple parties. And we see this as a good sign in the process. And in the next month or two, Joe will be asking for more detailed, formal offers from these various groups. And when and if we reach a deal, as Larry pointed out, this would benefit the conference in a couple of ways.”

Needless to say, the moves are unprecedented in collegiate athletics and designed to help close the revenue gap a bit between the Pac-12 and their peers in the SEC and Big Ten. We’ll see what ultimately becomes of this plan but it’s not often one can own an actual slice of an athletic conference, much less a Power Five one.

Appalachian State suspends several players after video surfaces of fight over the weekend

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Head coaches are always worried about headlines this time of year because outside of those handful of ones about spring practice, chances are high that if somebody is writing about the program it’s because somebody did something wrong. Thanks to an assist from Reddit of all places though, that’s exactly what new Appalachian State head coach Eli Drinkwitz is dealing with.

As detailed by the Winston-Salem Journal, a video surfaced on the social media site in the AppState sub-reddit that apparently shows several football players involved in a fight at a house party. As one could guess from a thread labeled ‘St. Patrick’s day football team scuffle,’ this poses a bit of a discipline issue for the program and several players have been suspended this week as a result.

“We are aware of an incident involving our student-athletes,” a statement provided by the school read. “We are proactively handling matters, with some student-athletes being suspended from team activities pending further investigation of facts and details.”

The university is still trying to sort out what happened and the exact level of involvement from all the players but has gone ahead and suspended those involved from the Mountaineers football team. While the names of those suspended were not released by the school, they did confirm only that it was fewer than five players who will be away from the program until a final punishment is decided.

This probably isn’t the way that Drinkwitz imagined his first spring practice going with the Mountaineers but such is life for one of the Sun Belt’s top teams.

Three former Pac-12 refs blast Larry Scott in private letter over Woodie Dixon scandal

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Eventually, the Bad News Train tearing a hole up and down the West Coast will eventually come to a stop. Until that day arrives, though, that train just keeps on truckin’.

The latest incident arrives from the San Jose Mercury-News, where Jon Wilner — the Woodward to The Oregonian‘s Bernstein, with embattled commissioner Larry Scott serving as Richard Nixon in this metaphor — has the published a letter written by three former Pac-12 officials blasting the commissioner over his handling of the Pac-12’s officiating scandal.

As you’ll recall, last fall it was revealed that Pac-12 general counsel Woodie Dixon remotely intervened to incorrectly overturn a targeting call in favor of USC during the Trojans’ 3-point win over Washington State in late September. Scott said the incident was an isolated one and then triggered a comprehensive review of the league’s officiating process, but three refs have stepped forward to rebuke Scott, saying he’s looking at the wrong people.

The trio — Chuck CzubinFred Gallagher and Mack Gilchrist — have more than a century as Pac-12 refs between them, and in December they sent a letter to Scott and Pac-12 vice president of officiating David Coleman. They then sent the email to Wilner last month and to Pac-12 ADs Ray Anderson (Arizona State), Rob Mullens (Oregon), Scott Barnes (Oregon State), and Rick George (Colorado) three days after they sent it to Wilner; Wilner published it today. On the Dixon incident, the group writes:

Mr. Scott, you know from personal experience this is not the first time he has overstepped his bounds…. Woodie singlehandedly caused the exit of the former Supervisor of Officials, and it is well known that several years ago he wanted to fire the gentleman who is now your Replay Supervisor. After the latest incident there is no question the Conference was far more interested in covering this up and finding the source of the info, rather than dealing with Woodie. You did so by removing a very valuable training tool for IR (instant replay). In your blind and bumbled approach you hid our reports and grades. This info had previously been transparent, which allowed IR to confer within itself…. Instead of dropping the hammer on Woodie you dropped it on IR. 

The Pac-12 declined to comment on the letter, but Scott himself responded to Czubin, Gallagher and Gilchrist on March 5. “[W]e are always seeking new ways to improve our program, and have recently made the decision to hire an outside expert to initiate a review of our football officiating program. The review will include assessments of many of the areas you highlight in your letter, and will definitely take into account feedback from officials,” he wrote. The conference announced it had hired Sibson Consulting to examine its refereeing program on Feb. 23.

If further reporting details that Dixon has intervened on more games than just last year’s Wazzu-USC game and Scott was aware of it, it would call into question the integrity of Pac-12 football itself under Scott’s watch, and the commissioner’s tenure may then follow the footsteps of Nixon’s all the way out the door.