Oklahoma scores 35 points off five Alabama turnovers in Sugar Bowl win

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For one half it looked as though we went back in time watching some of the great Oklahoma teams from the earlier part of the Bob Stoops era. In the second half Stoops found a way to keep his Sooners in front of Nick Saban‘s Alabama Crimson Tide and held off any possible rally in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma shocked the two-time defending BCS champions with a 45-31 victory, Alabama’s first loss in a postseason bowl game since the 2009 Sugar Bowl upset to Utah. Alabama lost five turnovers, which turned in to 35 points for the Sooners.

Leading 31-17 at the half, Oklahoma got off to a poor start in the second half. Alabama eventually picked up the first score of the second half with a touchdown run by Derrick Henry from 43 yards midway through the third quarter to bring Alabama to within one score. Things looked to be going Alabama’s way, but the Sooners extended their lead in the fourth quarter when Trevor Knight rolled to the right side and then threw back a little to his left to find Sterling Shepard for a touchdown. The score made it a double-digit lead, 38-24. Alabama managed to score once more with AJ McCarron tossing a short pass to Henry, who then ran right up the middle of the field for a 60-yard touchdown to make it a once-score game. Once Oklahoma got their hands back on the football though, Alabama’s defense could not get off the field with enough time to work with on offense. Oklahoma punted away with 1:02 to play but without any timeouts Alabama failed to drive the length of the field to tie things up.

On the first play from scrimmage, McCarron dropped back and had the ball knocked out of his hand by Eric Striker. The loose football was picked up by Okla Geneo Grissom, who then stretched his body to reach for the goal line and one last touchdown. The 15-point underdog won by 14 as a result of the seventh sac of the night by Oklahoma’s defense.

Trevor Knight ended the night with 348 yards and four touchdowns while Alabama’s McCarron ended his collegiate career with 387 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in addition to the late fumble. The Crimson Tide actually out-gained Oklahoma 516-432 but were uncharacteristically careless with ball protection with five turnovers, which as mentioned above resulted in 35 points for Oklahoma.

Next season Oklahoma will open the season knowing Trevor Knight will be the main guy running the offense. If the Sugar Bowl and the regular season finale against Oklahoma State was any indication of what to expect from the Sooners in 2014, watch out in the Big 12. Oklahoma showed signs of improving as the season went along, so if they can carry that momentum in to the spring then they could be in store for a successful season next fall. The schedule is certainly favorable with home games against Tennessee, Baylor and Kansas State. The Sooners pen the 2014 season at home against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, August 30.

As for Alabama, it is back to the drawing board. For the first time in a few years the Crimson Tide will officially open a quarterback competition for the starting job in 2014. With McCarron moving on, Alabama will have a new starting quarterback but they could also be set to lose a running back. Fortunately the position is stocked. The focus should also be on the defense that had cracks all year and started to be beyond repair in the final games of the season. Alabama is not going anywhere though as far as the national title picture is concerned. With four spots up for grabs in the new college football playoff model starting next season, the Crimson Tide will continue to be a contender as long as Nick Saban is in charge.

Alabama opens the 2014 season in Atlanta against West Virginia on Saturday, August 30.

More signs connecting Charlie Strong to analyst role at Alabama

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At this point, it would seemingly be an upset if Charlie Strong doesn’t land at Alabama football.

In early December of last year, Strong was let go as the head coach at South Florida.  Over the past two-plus months, the 59-year-old Strong has remained on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  There has been speculation, though, that Strong could be returning to Florida and joining Dan Mullens‘ extended staff as a defensive analyst.

Late last week, however, it was reported that Charlie Strong was in Tuscaloosa visiting with the Alabama football coaching staff.  A few days later, it’s now being reported that Strong is expected back in T-Town this week.  Perhaps as early as tomorrow, according to Matt Zenitz of al.com.

Nick Saban doesn’t have an opening on his 10-man on-field coaching staff.  However, Charlie Strong could conceivably join the Alabama football program as some type of an analyst, ala Butch Jones and myriad others.

Strong has spent the past decade as a head coach.  After going 37-15 in four seasons (2010-13) at Louisville, Strong left to take the head job at Texas.  Three seasons (2014-16) in Austin ended with his dismissal following a 16-21 record.  Strong’s tenure at USF ended after three seasons (2017-19) as well and a 4-8 2019 campaign.

In the last six years of his head-coaching career, Strong posted a 37-37 record.

Prior to that, Strong spent seven years (2003-09) as the defensive coordinator at Florida.  During that time with the Gators, he also coached defensive ends and linebackers.  For four of those seasons, Mullen was UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before leaving to take the Mississippi State job.

That was actually Strong’s fourth stint with the Gators.  From 1991-94, he coached defensive tackles (1994) and defensive ends (1991-93).  He also served as outside linebackers coach from 1988-89.  Strong began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at UF in 1983-84.

Strong was also the defensive coordinator at South Carolina for four years (1999-2002) before moving on to Gainesville that fourth time.  In between the third Gainesville stint and his time in Columbia, Strong was the defensive line coach at Notre Dame from 1995-98.

Kentucky’s Vince Marrow will likely be highest-paid non-coordinator in college football this year

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For Vince Marrow of Kentucky, it paid to be wooed by Michigan State.

After an initial denial, Mel Tucker reversed course and left Colorado to become the Michigan State head coach. Not only will Tucker be doubling his salary in East Lansing, but his salary pool for assistant coaches will be nearly double what he had to work with in Boulder as well.

Marrow was one of the assistants Tucker had hoped to bring to Michigan State, wooing the longtime Kentucky coach and close friend into his new fold. Instead, he opted to eschew the chance to move to Michigan State and remain at Kentucky.

In a non-coincidental move, UK Monday released the details of a new contract agreement signed last Thursday by Marrow. Per that new deal, Marrow, who is tight ends coach while also serving as recruiting coordinator and associate head coach, will be paid $900,000 annually as part of the three-year contract. This past season, Marrow was paid $600,000 in guaranteed compensation.

With Mike Yurcich ($950,000) taking over as Texas’ offensive coordinator after spending 2019 as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and Sam Pittman ($900,000) leaving as Georgia’s offensive line to take the head job at Arkansas, Marrow is currently the highest-paid non-coordinator in college football. That statement is based on the USA Today coaches salary database.

Marrow will also have a salary on par with UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and slightly above the $875,000 set for defensive coordinator Brad White.

The 51-year-old Marrow has spent the past eight seasons at Kentucky.  He was retained when Mark Stoops took over the Wildcats in November of 2012.

Chris Creighton puts finishing touches on Eastern Michigan staff with three additions

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Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton is ready to go to work with a new staff finally put in place in Ypsilanti. On Monday, Eastern Michigan formally announced the additions of tight ends coach Brandon Blaney, cornerbacks coach LaMarcus Hicks, and quarterbacks coach Mike Piatkowski. A few role adjustments on the staff were also ironed out for the upcoming season.

Blaney joins the Eastern Michigan staff after spending the past two seasons as an offensive analyst for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Blaney also has NFL coaching experience as an assistant with the Tennessee Titans and he previously coached at Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Youngstown State. For Creighton, it was a long time coming to be able to land Blaney on his coaching staff.

“I have wanted to work with Coach Blaney since the late 1990s,” Creighton said in a released statement. “I am thrilled that it has worked out for him to join us here at Eastern Michigan. He has been successful at so many different levels. His expertise and genuine care for our players will serve us well.”

Hicks joins the Eagles program after two years at another MAC program, Bowling Green. Piatkowski comes to the program from his most recent job at Indiana, but he has a history with Eastern Michigan. Piatkowski was a graduate assistant on the coaching staff at EMU in 2016-17. Piatkowski also played for Creighton at Drake.

As for returning members of the coaching staff, James Patton is taking on the role of run game coordinator while retaining his role as offensive line coach. Fred Reed will move from coaching the cornerbacks to coaching the safeties, now that Hicks will take on the cornerback coaching. Special teams coordinator Jay Nunez will now also be in charge of coaching defensive tackles.

Eastern Michigan will begin spring football practices on March 10. The Eagles are coming off a 6-7 season that ended with a loss to Pitt in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Mel Tucker bringing OL coach Chris Kapilovic from Colorado to Michigan State

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As is typically the case any time a head coach moves from one school to another, he is bound to take some assistants from his previous stop with him. Mel Tucker appears to be doing just that as he puts together his coaching staff at Michigan State. Offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic is reportedly making the move from Boulder to East Lansing to remain a part of Tucker’s coaching staff.

Football Scoop and Buff Stampede each reported the news of Kapilovic following Tucker to Michigan State on Monday afternoon. As reported by Football Scoop, Kapilovic turned down a couple of offers to join the coaching staff at Auburn and Missouri this offseason with the intent on remaining in Colorado with Tucker. But once Tucker had his sudden change of heart regarding the vacancy in East Lansing, the situation changed for Kapilovic as well. And with those SEC offers no longer being options, a move to the Big Ten may be just as lucrative. It was certainly lucrative enough for Tucker, of course, and Tucker’s coaching staff should be set to receive better pay compared to the pay that was being offered at Colorado.

Tucker has already retained two holdovers from the coaching staff assembled by former Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. Ron Burton opted to stay at Michigan State as a defensive line coach after nearly leaving for Indiana (Indiana has just filled the vacancy Burton was slated to occupy). Mike Tressel, who was Dantonio’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (and was named the interim head coach following Dantonio’s retirement), is also staying in East Lansing.