Alabama, Auburn prepared for monumental Iron Bowl

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Is this the biggest Iron Bowl in the history of Alabama and Auburn football? It may be, at least in the past 40 years. A trip to Atlanta is on the line in this year’s Iron Bowl. For the first time since the SEC split in to two divisions and introduced a conference championship game, the SEC West representative will be determined solely by the outcome of the Iron Bowl, the annual match-up between Alabama and Auburn. The stakes could not be any higher, not when the winner will also have a legitimate shot at advancing to the BCS Championship in Pasadena in addition to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

Something is going to have to give on the field this weekend too. Auburn has the SEC’s top rushing offense, averaging 320.27 yards per game this season. Only one time this season has Auburn been held under 200 yards on the ground (Mississippi State). The Tigers have also rushed for 37 touchdowns this season. Tre Mason leads the charge with 1,153 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Marshall compliments the running game with 823 yards and nine touchdowns. Auburn has had their way with opponents with their running game, but this weekend the Tigers will go up against the SEC’s best rushing defense.

Alabama’s defense has stymied opposing offenses to just 91.27 yards per game and just five times has an opponent scored a touchdown on the ground against the Crimson Tide, and no team has done so more than once in a game at all this season. Auburn has rushed for at least four touchdowns in each of their previous six games.

Alabama has been following a path to Pasadena since wrapping up a BCS championship victory over Notre Dame in Miami last season. Auburn, on the other hand, has appeared out of nowhere in the rear view mirror in the last few weeks and now is signaling to pass. Of course, Alabama’s running game has been pretty solid this year as well, averaging 211.4 yards per game and recording 25 rushing touchdowns. the sophomore duo of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake has accounted for over 1,600 yards and 20 of those touchdowns.

The running games of both teams should take center stage in this year’s Iron Bowl, but many eyes will be on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. In recent weeks a number of Heisman candidates have stumbled down the stretch btu McCarron continues to be a steady player, if not impressive. Is McCarron a worthy Heisman candidate? It is a tough sell to hop entirely on that ship, but if McCarron can go in to Auburn and put together the kind of numbers he had earlier in the season against Texas A&M in leading Alabama to a win, perhaps it will be easier to believe McCarron is a legitimate candidate. There is nothing wrong with being the kind of trusty and dependable and proven winner McCarron has become, but there is still something to prove before getting firmly behind the McCarron for Heisman bandwagon that seems to have developed over the last week or so.

As mentioned before, the winner of this game will be crowned SEC East champion and move on to Atlanta next week to face Missouri or South Carolina. A Missouri win against Texas A&M will send Missouri to the conference championship game, while a loss to Johnny Manziel and the Aggies will send South Carolina back to Atlanta for the first time in three seasons. The winner will also remain in contention for a BCS championship shot. The Crimson Tide would be a lock as the top-team team in the country from the beginning of the year through now if they manage to win this weekend and again in the SEC championship game. Auburn, ranked fourth in the BCS standings, could put together a solid case for jumping over an undefeated Ohio State team. It would be quite the debate, at least.

The way things are lining up though, it may be possible both Alabama and Auburn are playing in BCS bowl games in January. That is a feat that has not happened in the BCS era.

WATCH: Troy player receives football scholarship from his mom

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The moment when a player receives a surprise scholarship among the company of his teammates is never one that gets old watching, and you have to give it to coaches and programs finding new ways to always keep these moments as special as they can. Recently, Troy long snapper Cameron Kaye was surprised with a scholarship at the end of a practice, and his mother was the one to hand over the official paperwork.

As Troy head coach Neal Brown says in the video, Kaye started every game Troy played a season ago and has earned a 3.0 GPA as an exercise science major.

Kaye announced he had received his full scholarship offer on Friday, two days prior to Troy’s video team releasing the video included in this post.

Videos of players learning they are being put on scholarship will never, ever get old.

Penn State DE Torrence Brown the latest Nittany Lion to retire

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The hits just keep on coming for Penn State. Just days after a pair of Penn State players announced their retirement from football, defensive end Torrence Brown has announced his retirement from the game just before the start of the college football season.

“Due to multiple injuries and surgeries, my career at Penn State has come to an end,” Brown said in a statement shared on his Twitter account recently. “It has been tough coming to terms with this news but I know that everything happens for a reason and God will continue to guide me.”

Brown missed the majority of the 2017 season due to a knee injury suffered early in the year. He had hoped to return to the field this fall, but that clearly did not come to be for Brown as he battled back from injury.

Last week, Ryan Buchholz and Jordan Miner announced their retirements from the game. Prior to that, 2018 signee Nana Asiedu announced his retirement due to a heart condition. Quarterback Jake Zembiec also has retired due to a shoulder injury.

“We’re kind of having a strange year, to be honest with you,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said recently in response to some of the previously announced retirements, according to PennLive. “It’s challenging for them, it’s challenging for their parents, it’s challenging for us as a staff, in terms of managing a roster and depth, and those types of things. Most importantly, it’s difficult (because) this is their dream. This is their ultimate dream.”

Brown said he intends to follow through with the winter semester to earn his degree.

UCLA loses LB Josh Woods to season-ending knee injury

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UCLA’s defense was dealt a bad card just before the start of the 2018 college football season. Bruins head coach Chip Kelly announced to reporters that linebacker Josh Woods will miss the entire season due to a knee injury from Thursday’s practice.

“It’s a big blow,” Kelly said, according to a Los Angeles Daily News report. “Just a great young man, everything you want in a football player. So it’s hard for us to try to replace because we don’t have that much depth at that position. But right now our thoughts are with Josh.”

Woods was expected to be a starter for the UCLA defense this season. Last season, he appeared in seven games and recorded 30 tackles, including 23 solo tackles. His 2017 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury.

It remains to be determined if Woods will get the chance to play for UCLA again. The senior has already earned his degree but does have the option of using a redshirt for the 2018 season and continuing to play again in 2019.

Jeremy Pruitt still expects Vols’ highest-rated 2018 signee to enroll

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Tennessee has spent the whole of summer camp without its most highly-touted true freshman, but that could change in the not-too-distant future.

While JJ Peterson signed with the Vols this recruiting cycle, he has yet to enroll in classes at UT as he still has some academic requirements to clear. After Saturday’s scrimmage, Jeremy Pruitt seemed confident that the linebacker will join the team on the field sooner rather than later.

“He’s finishing up a class, and when he gets the class finished up, he’ll be here,” the head coach said by the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Would we have liked it… been last week? Absolutely. But that’s part of it. You’ve got to do it, and he’s working hard to do that.”

According to the News Sentinel, UT starts its fall semester this coming Wednesday.

A four-star member of the Volunteers’ 2018 recruiting class, Peterson was rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the country; the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 48 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  The 6-3, 231-pound signee was the highest-rated prospect in Pruitt’s first class with the Vols, one that was 22nd nationally and eighth in the SEC.

Tennessee kicks off the 2018 season Sept. 1 against West Virginia in Charlotte.