Auburn holds off Manziel magic for 45-41 win

26 Comments

For the second time in as many weeks Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had to be taken out of the game to be treated for an injury. Manziel returned to the game once again this week, and nearly pulled out a memorable victory. Instead, it was Auburn who celebrated a win in Kyle Field, hanging on for a wild 45-41 win in SEC West play.

Entering the fourth quarter trailing Texas A&M 31-24, Auburn scored three touchdowns to take a lead and the defense held on for a stop on Texas A&M’s final drive of the game. Nick Marshall‘s wheel route pass completion to Marcus Davis down the right sideline kept a drive alive and two quick plays later the Tigers took a lead after a video review overturned a play on the field and awarded a go-ahead touchdown for Auburn.

Manziel appeared to injure his right elbow or shoulder while running up the middle of the field and being tackled by a pair of Auburn defenders earlier in the quarter. He immediately came out of the game and was attended to by the Texas A&M medical staff. Cameras hovering over the field at the game caught video of Manziel getting off the bench to try tossing a pass to Mike Evans, but as he wound his arm he abruptly stopped his throwing motion, shook his head and was taken to the locker room. While he was out of the game the Aggies, with back-up quarterback Matt Joeckel leading the offense, went three-and-out. Perhaps Manziel’s brief absence cost Texas A&M a win. The way the offenses were in control, it is not hard to envision.

Auburn took a lead while Manziel was being treated, but Manziel would return in a time of need for Texas A&M. Trailing by four, Manziel completed six straight passes and took off on a short touchdown run to put the Aggies in front late in the game. Then, after Auburn capped a 75-yard drive in 13 plays under four minutes for the lead but did so unwisely using a hurry-up offense close the goal line, Manziel worked his magic one more time for a game-winning drive with 1:19 to work with, and he nearly pulled it off. Auburn’s defense had been chasing Manziel and Evans all day long, but came up with a big stop as the Aggies were knocking on the door.

Auburn and Texas A&M combined for 1,217 yards with a pretty even split. Manziel passed for 454 yards and four touchdowns and added 48 rushing yards and a touchdown for good measure. Auburn’s Tre Mason rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown and Marshall took off for 100 yards and two touchdowns as well. Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans was nearly unstoppable as well, collecting 287 receiving yards and four touchdowns as Manziel’s top target.

The win improves Auburn to 6-1 this year, with a 3-1 record in the SEC. The only loss for Auburn came on the road at LSU. Auburn should have an easier time getting to 7-1 when they host Florida Atlantic next week in a non-conference game. then will come two road games, at Arkansas and Tennessee, before closing out the regular season at home against Georgia and Alabama. Auburn’s season has all of a sudden put them in a good position in the SEC standings. To make an unexpected trip to Atlanta, Auburn will need a little bit of help (Alabama beating LSU), but Tigers fans can at least dream wildly for a day or two.

Texas A&M now has two losses in SEC play, including an earlier loss to Alabama. Their chances to play for an SEC Championship may have already been slim, but may have been  wiped out with this loss. Sure, Texas A&M may still have the best offense in the SEC, but their shortcomings on defense continue to haunt them in big spots.

In interview with Howard Stern, Tom Brady talks about almost transferring from Michigan to Cal

Howard Stern Tom Brady
Getty Images
1 Comment

While a lot of the attention surrounding his Howard Stern interview focused on his relationship with the current POTUS, there was a college football angle to all of the Tom Brady talk.

Coming out of high school in California, Brady chose a scholarship offer from Michigan over one from Cal. His first season at U-M, Brady sat behind Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese and Jason Carr, the son of head coach Lloyd Carr and took a redshirt. His second season, with Carr out of eligibility, Brady was still behind Dreisbach and Griese.

In his book “Belichick and Brady,” Michael Holley explained that Brady very nearly transferred from Michigan to Cal because of his positioning on the depth chart. During the course of his SiriusXM interview with the King of All Media Wednesday, Brady acknowledged the transfer talk.

The guy who was playing above me, Scott Dreisbach, he was very much their guy,” Brady told Stern during the show. “I thought we had got off to kind of a good start, he had got off to a good start in his career, and I was looking up at all these guys on the depth chart that were ahead of me, and I thought, ‘I’m never going to get a chance here.’ I remember talking to the people at Cal, because that was my second choice, to go to Berkeley, and I was thinking, ‘Maybe I should go there, because I’ll get more of an opportunity to play.’

“I went in and talked to Lloyd Carr. I said, ‘I don’t really think I’m going to get my chance here. I think I should leave,’ and he said, ‘Tom, I want you to stay, and I believe in you, and I think you could be a good player, but you’ve got to start worrying about the things you can control.’ When he said that he wanted me there, I went to bed that night, I woke up the next day, and I figured, you know what, if I’m going to be — and I still feel this way today — in a team sport, you’ve got to sacrifice what you want individually for what’s best for the team. So if you’re not the best guy, it’s a disservice for the team if you’re forced to somehow play. My feeling was, if I’m going to be the best, I’ve got to beat out the best, and if the best competition’s at Michigan, I’ve got to beat those guys out if I’m going to play. I ended up committing to be the best.

Obviously, Brady opted to remain with the Wolverines. He served as Griese’s backup in 1997, then beat out Dreisbach for the starting job the following season. After two years as U-M’s started, Brady was infamously selected 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Suffice to say, Brady did fairly well for himself during his 20 seasons in New England.

Minnesota projecting potential $75 million loss due to COVID-19

Minnesota football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The worst case for Minnesota when it comes to COVID-19 is a hefty bottom line hit.

The school’s board of regents met on Tuesday and detailed some of the initial modeling they are projecting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking just of the athletic department, that could result in nearly $75 million in lost revenue alone for the Gophers.

The Athletic’s Eric Vegoe detailed one of the slides from the meeting, which shows an overall $200 million hit to the university at large in a worst case — or “severe” — scenario:

Obviously the severe scenario that shows COVID-19 lasting into the fall is projecting a serious loss of revenue as the result of no (or reduced) college football. The sport makes up the vast majority of Minnesota’s revenues and has untold impact on other items such as donations as well.

USA Today’s database of athletic department revenues show the Gophers had nearly $125 million in revenue through the 2017-18 school year. While that figure has undoubtedly climbed higher as Big Ten media rights distributions have escalated, the number provided to the regents is still a huge chunk of that amount.

Even the moderate estimate of things lasting through the summer could result in a 20% shave on the department’s income.

It goes without saying that finances across the board in every industry will be impacted by the global pandemic but slides like the one above are a good reminder that even in the tiny world of football or college athletics, the cuts will probably have to run quite deep. And if a school like Minnesota is potentially forced to cut back, just imagine what other Group of Five programs will have to go through.

At some point college football will return to our lives but the ramifications of this current battle against the coronavirus figure will certainly have a far-reaching impact well beyond the gridiron. Sadly, no amount of ‘Rowing the Boat’ will be able to change that fact.

Bay Area official does not expect sports to return “until at least Thanksgiving”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

So much of the intersection of the coronavirus and college football has centered on when the game might return this fall.

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy wants players back as soon as May. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is confident that Death Valley will be packed come September. Virginia Tech’s athletic director has floated moving the calendar back just to get a full slate in.

In short, nobody knows.

That unknown has weighed heavily on most as they are asked to discuss the topic in recent days. What is left unsaid however, is that no coach or administrator will truly be in charge of determining the date CFB returns. That will be left to health officials at the local level.

One such official broached that topic this week. Speaking to the Santa Clara County (in the California Bay Area) Board of Supervisors, Dr. Jeffrey Smith believes sports in general may be looking more toward winter than fall whenever it returns.

Per the Los Angeles Times:

Smith on Tuesday told that county’s Board of Supervisors that he did not expect there would be “any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we’d be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving. This is not something that’s going to be easy to do.”

Santa Clara County is home to both Stanford and San Jose State. It’s also located in the region of the United States that was at the forefront of shutting down as a response to COVID-19 last month.

If those in charge don’t see a return to the football field until turkey time, those optimistic projections of getting the season done on time can probably be thrown to the wind.

Let’s hope that won’t turn out to be the case and the world can get a medical miracle it desperately needs. But until that happens, it’s probably best to be more pessimistic when it comes to the 2020 season than optimistic.

Survey of ADs shows momentum for expanded College Football Playoff

Getty Images
2 Comments

At some point normalcy will return to college football. When that will be is anybody’s guess but it will come at some point.

When it does, much of the focus in the sport will return to matters like… College Football Playoff expansion. Yes, everybody’s favorite subject isn’t being forgot even if the attention is elsewhere nowadays due to the coronavirus.

Stadium recently conducted a wide-ranging survey of FBS athletic directors and one of the big questions asked was not surprisingly about the future of the CFP. To nobody’s surprise, the move toward eight or more teams in the annual postseason tournament is gathering plenty of momentum.

Per Brett McMurphy:

A whopping 88 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) athletic directors want an expanded College Football Playoff when the current playoff contract ends after the 2025 regular season, according to a survey conducted by Stadium.

Of those athletic directors who favor an expanded playoff, 72 percent believe eight teams should qualify. Also, 66 percent of the ADs said the highest-ranked non-Power Five team should receive an automatic bid to an expanded playoff.

Since its inception as a four team event, the idea of expansion for the College Football Playoff has been a pretty constant talking point. Some have made their feelings known publicly at all levels.

“More and more fans are only concerned with the playoffs,” a Power Five AD told Stadium. “That’s sad, but true, so we should expand the playoffs when possible. Even if that impacts the bowl system. We have to figure out a way.”

So mostly it’s been a question of when and not if. The focus on the latter has typically centered around the expiration of the CFP television contract with ESPN after the 2025-26 season. Executive director Bill Hancock has remarked a few times that there is no “look-in” with the deal to formally renegotiate the contract. Still, there would need to be some groundwork laid and a decision made well before 2025 in order to make the necessary changes to things like semifinal dates and stadium sites.

Given the potential revenue shortfalls due to the on-going COVID-19 situation, perhaps things will be accelerated over the course of the summer but we’re entering a window where the talk about moving to eight teams or beyond is going to start turning into some action.

It sounds as though the ADs are on board with formally expanding the chase for the national championship and this latest survey only confirms as much.