Future Alabama-USC game in the offing?

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Depending how factors on a few fronts shake out, two of the most storied football programs in the history of college football could meet on the gridiron for the first time in over three decades.  Maybe.  Possibly.

A USC official confirmed to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News that discussions have taken place regarding a future neutral site game against Alabama.  Specifically, there have been talks about the Tide and the Trojans opening the 2016 season at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

The two programs last met in the Aloha Bowl following the 1985 season and first met in 1938.  All told, the Tide and the Trojans have squared off seven times — the former owns a 5-2 edge — including the historic meeting in 1970 “in which John McKay’s visiting Trojans, with their all-black starting backfield, pounded Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’s all-white Crimson Tide 42-21.”  That game, the story goes, forever changed Alabama football.

Adding further intrigue would be Lane Kiffin, who was fired as USC’s head coach a month into the 2013 season and then hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator a few months later.  And, yes, I would be just as giddy about such a game as I was when Kiffin was hired by Nick Saban.

There are, however, several hurdles that need to be navigated before such a clash of iconic brands could take place.

“We often get approached about scheduling opportunities,” the spokesperson told the News. “We have been approached about doing this game and we are looking at it, but there are a number of real challenges to scheduling this game. For instance, our 2016 schedule is full. We also need to evaluate the financial ramifications. At the end of the day, that could be an issue.”

For his part, Saban would only talk in scheduling generalities when asked about the potential matchup.

“We’re always looking, but not anything I can share with you right now,” the coach said according to the Anniston Star. “I don’t think we want to create speculation. We’re playing Wisconsin in Dallas the next year (2015 opener), and we were supposed to play Penn State in 2016. They bailed out on us, so we’re looking for an opponent to play somewhere in 2016 right now.

According to the excellent website FBSchedules.com, the Trojans, which play nine conference games in the Pac-12, only have two of its three non-conference games booked that year: the annual rivalry game with Notre Dame and the opener against New Mexico. Perhaps the third game has been finalized and not announced?

Regardless, there are no real scheduling issues on the Tide’s end as UA has yet to announce any of their four non-conference games that season. In September of last year, UA canceled a home-and-home series with Michigan State that was to begin in 2016.

As far as the financial ramifications go, owner Jerry Jones and his stadium will make sure each team is handsomely rewarded for giving up a home game.  In 2017, for instance, both Florida and Michigan will be paid in excess of $6 million for playing their opener at Cowboys Stadium.

(Photo credit: Showtime)

Ohio State LB Baron Browning ruled out for Maryland game

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For the second straight week, Ohio State will be down a man in its linebacking corps.

Earlier this week, Urban Meyer listed Baron Browning as probable for Saturday’s game against Maryland.  Wednesday night after practice, however, the head coach confirmed that the linebacker will not play against the Terrapins.

Browning is dealing with an unspecified injury that sidelined the sophomore linebacker for the win over Michigan State this past Saturday.

Through eight games in 2018, Browning has been credited with 22 tackles, 3½ tackles for loss and a sack.  As noted by ElevenWarriors.com, Browning has been rotating in with Tuf Borland at the middle linebacker spot throughout the season.

A five-star 2017 signee, Browning played in a dozen games as a true freshman last year.

Western Michigan announces firing of DC Tim Daoust

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Tuesday night, Western Michigan was officially removed from MAC West contention.  Less than 24 hours later, WMU removed one of its top assistants.

Wednesday night, the Broncos announced that they have “parted ways” with defensive coordinator Tim Daoust.  The move comes after WMU gave up 42 points in a loss to a three-win Ball State team that came into the game 99th in the country in scoring (24.5 points per game).

All told, the Broncos gave up 51, 59 and 42 points in three straight losses that knocked them out of the West race and handed the division title to Northern Illinois.

“I appreciate Tim and his family’s dedication to the Bronco football family these past two seasons,” head coach Tim Lester said in a statement. “At this time I felt we needed to go in a different direction.”

This was Daoust’s second stint in Kalamazoo as he was an assistant with the Broncos from 2006-09.  Prior to this two-year stint at WMU, Daoust was the coordinator at Ball State.

Daoust will be replaced for the remainder of the year by defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Lou Esposito.  WMU, which is bowl-eligible for a school-record fifth-straight year, will close out the 2018 regular season against West champion NIU next Tuesday.

SEC lands three of five Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalists

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A conference known for its defense is front and center for an award that honors that side of the ball.

Of the five finalists for the 2018 Bronko Nagurski Trophy announced Wednesday by the Football Writers Association of America, three of them hail from the SEC — Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen, LSU safety Grant Delpit and Alabama nose guard Quinnen Williams.  The other two –Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins — come from teams which are ranked in the top four of the most recent College Football Playoff rankings.

North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb was the 2017 winner of the Nagurski.  Houston’s Ed Oliver was a finalist for that award and was eligible again this year, but a knee injury has sidelined him for the last three games and will likely keep him out for a fourth — if not longer.

The 2018 winner will be honored at a Dec. 3 ceremony in Charlotte.

After 53 straight losses, D3 program decides to take 2019 off

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There will be no football played at Division 3 Earlham College in Indiana next season. The school is taking next season off with the intent on returning to the field in 2020, hopefully, with a game plan for improving the football program.

The news of Earlham shutting the program down for a year comes following a 53rd straight loss, an NCAA Division 3 record. Head coach Nick Johnson has already been informed he will no longer be a part of the program but will take on a new role within the university. The last time Earlham celebrated a win was Oct. 26, 2013, according to a Richmond Palladium-Item report.

“As President of Earlham College, I am well aware of the many ways in which a successful athletics program can enhance and strengthen the overall well-being of a college,” interim Earlham College president Avis Stewart said in a released statement. “However, it can reasonably be argued that our inability to field competitive teams has significantly hampered our ability to recruit a sufficient number of student-athletes who seek a positive, quality intercollegiate athletics football experience. Therefore, I have decided that our community needs to take a fresh approach to building and sustaining a competitive football program.”

A year off for any college football program is a difficult decision to make, and at the lower levels of football, it comes with more doubt about the potential return of a program. Fortunately, perhaps, this plan is already mapped out as opposed to when UAB decided to shut its program down for good, only to reverse course and bring the football program back after a brief hiatus.

Earlham College will plan on bringing the football program back in 2020 as long as it is determined doing so will not pose a risk to the school’s academic integrity, the school feels secure in the ability to fund the program, and it can find a suitable head coach to lead the program.

Well, Bobby Petrino is available.