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.

Mike MacIntyre didn’t know Colorado scored a TD when Buffs went for two-point conversion vs. USC

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Colorado lost for the first time late Saturday on the road at USC. The result was not entirely puzzling given Colorado may have been due for a loss and USC can be difficult to top in Los Angeles, but a decision to go for a two-point conversion after a late Colorado touchdown cut into the USC lead left many watching scratching their heads. After the game, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre explained the rationale behind the two-point conversion attempt, and it was rather simple.

MacIntyre didn’t know Colorado scored a touchdown and thought it was a first-and-goal situation.

The two-point conversion attempt came following a Steven Montez 19-yard touchdown run with 3:23 to play. The touchdown cut the USC lead to 31-20. A successful two-point conversion would have made it a nine-point game whereas an extra point would have created a 10-point deficit for Colorado. You could argue Colorado still needed two scores in the final minutes anyway and a two-point try would allow for the possibility of a win. The conventional logic, however, suggests there is a better win probability if you only need a touchdown and a field goal. Not that Colorado had a great chance either way to come back and win (which of course, they did not), but the decision to go for two points was a bizarre one. And now we know why.

So, was MacIntyre given incorrect information on the field? Shouldn’t somebody on Colorado have known the team just scored a touchdown, be it an official, a staffer, or one of the players on the field? Who is to blame for this messy situation? The fault should fall on the shoulders of the head coach here. It may not have ultimately altered the outcome of the game, since Colorado did recover the onside kick after all fo this but failed to pick up a first down.

Mark Richt to assess entire State of the U during bye week

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Miami head coach Mark Richt is going to be busy on Miami’s bye week taking a good hard look at his football program. After following up a wild come-from-behind victory against rival Florida State, Miami went on the road and took a difficult loss at Virginia. Just like that, Miami followed up an opportunity to take steps forward as a program by taking a step back. In his third season at Miami, Richt does not want to waste much time attempting to steer things back in the right direction.

“But maybe that’s exactly what we need, to assess everything top to bottom,” Richt said after Miami’s 16-13 loss at Virginia, according to The Miami Herald. “If there is a time in the season to make certain changes you can do them, whether it’s just scheme or maybe personnel or whatever it may be.

“Certainly there will be a couple sleepless night for me, I know.’’

Miami has a number of issues they are trying to overcome. Recent history against teams from power conference programs and simply playing on the road. The frustrations came to the table at the end of the 2017 season when Miami finished the regular season by being upset on the road at Pittsburgh and was followed by a loss in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson. Miami’s 2017 season ended in their home stadium for the Orange Bowl, but with a loss to Big Ten championship runner-up Wisconsin.

This season looked to get started on the right foot for Miami but the Hurricanes fell in Arlington, Texas against LSU. Now, with the most recent road loss to Virginia and ahead of a road trip to Boston College after the bye week, Richt has no area of the program that cannot benefit from a bit of self-assessment and reflection. Miami still has a good shot to return to the ACC championship game but that won’t happen if Richt and the Hurricanes don’t fix a few problems in the coming weeks.

Bowling Green fires Mike Jinks, names Carl Pelini interim head coach

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The first head coaching change of the 2018 season has been made. Bowling Green announced on Sunday it has removed Mike Jinks from the position of head coach of the Falcons. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini will take on the role of interim head coach for Bowling Green for the remainder of the season.

“I want to thank Coach Jinks for all of his efforts with our football program and in the BG community,” Bowling Green Director of Athletics Bob Moosbrugger said in a released statement. “However, we felt it was time to make a change in leadership. These are not easy decisions and we do not take this lightly. This affects 11 coaching families, 112 student-athletes and numerous support staff. We wish Mike and his family the best in their future endeavors.”

Jinks took on the role of head coach of Bowling Green after the 2015 season after serving as an assistant running back coach at Texas Tech from 2013 through 2015. Jinks replaced Dino Babers, who was hired away by Syracuse, and the hope was he would be able to continue the offensive momentum Babers had established following Dave Clawson. That just never materialized.

The last two and a half years have been tough for the program. Bowling Green went 4-8 in the first season under Jinks and followed that last season by going 2-10. Bowling Green dropped to 1-6 after a 42-35 loss at home against Western Michigan on Saturday. The only win of the 2018 season came against Eastern Kentucky, a 42-35 victory in Week 3.

Bowling Green will be on the road this week to play Ohio as Pelini steps into the head coaching role for the first time since being the head coach of Florida Atlantic in 2012 and 2013.

Minnesota RB Shannon Brooks arrested for suspected domestic assault

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A day after Minnesota lost a road game at Ohio State, head coach P.J. Fleck has an off-field situation to be concerned about. Running back Shannon Brooks was arrested early Sunday for suspected domestic assault stemming from an alleged fight with a roommate.

According to a Hennepin County jail records website, Brooks was charged by Minneapolis Police Department on probable cause for domestic assault. A report from the Pioneer Press says the other man involved in the incident was not a member of the football team. No court appearance has been set at this time.

Brooks is not playing this season due to an injury suffered during the spring. The non-contact injury to his leg occurred in early March at the end of Minnesota’s conditioning drills just before the formal start of spring football practices. He was using his redshirt year this season to preserve the opportunity to return in 2019 on his fifth year of eligibility.

Brooks played in six games for the Gophers in 2017, in which he rushed for 369 yards and five touchdowns.