No. 5 Alabama escapes Death Valley with life in playoff chase


Alabama and LSU renewed their rivalry the only way they know how it seems. The two teams played a defensive battle and had to go to overtime to settle the score. In the overtime, it was No. 5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) celebrating a big win over No. 16 LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC), 20-13. The win helps keep Alabama in the playoff hunt, and this was a very good day to pick up that win on the road.

With Auburn going down at home to an unranked Texas A&M, Alabama is the likely top candidate to slide into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings when the next ranking is released Tuesday night. TCU will make a case with its win over Kansas State, but Alabama was already on the door stop waiting for the door to open. For a while Saturday night it looked as though Alabama was destined to stumble, and they nearly did.

Alabama lost running back T.J. Yeldon to injury late in the fourth quarter (Head coach Nick Saban did not seem too concerned about the extent of the injury in a brief on-field postgame interview). Yeldon fumbled the football away to LSU deep in Alabama’s end of the field, but the defense held strong enough to force the home team to settle for a field goal. The late field goal gave LSU a 13-10 lead, but the ensuing kickoff dribbled out-of-bounds to set the Alabama offense up in good starting field position. With just 50 seconds to use, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin came through with some good play-calling and Blake Sims ran the offense to near perfection to move into position for a game-tying field goal in the final seconds. Adam Griffith, who had one field goal bounce off the goal post earlier in the game, came through with a 27-yard field goal to send the game to an extra session.

In the overtime, Alabama’s offense got creative and confused LSU’s defense by sending an offensive lineman out at a wide receiver position, only to send beefy tight end Brandon Greene for a 24-yard gain. A silly unsportsmanlike penalty ended up taking away a chunk of that gain, but Alabama ended the opening overtime possession with Sims connecting with an open DeAndrew White for a touchdown. LSU’s offense was unable to match it, with Anthony Jennings seeing his fourth down pass attempt fall incomplete to clinch the victory for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama took a 10-7 lead into the halftime, thanks in part to wide receiver Amari Cooper rewriting the history books while putting the team on his back for the only touchdown of the game. Cooper’s touchdown reception from Blake Sims in the second quarter was the highlight of the game for Alabama’s offense, but he also became the school’s all-time leading receiver in the first half while making some key plays to move the offense.

This sets the stage for another mega match-up in the SEC West next week. Alabama returns home to host top-ranked Mississippi State with first place in the division on the line. Mississippi State remains the only undefeated team in the SEC, but Alabama will hope to take advantage of playing at home. Alabama has won six straight meetings with Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs have not won in Tuscaloosa since 2006. Whichever team wins next week will likely be the SEC’s best hope to make the College Football Playoff, while the loser will be likely to be left out o the mix at the end.

LSU will wrap up the regular season on the road for its final two games. Next week LSU plays at Arkansas. The Tigers end the regular season at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving.

Central Michigan loses one of its highest-rated 2018 signees to the transfer portal

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One of the highest-rated signees for Central Michigan football a couple of years ago is leaving the MAC program.  Or, at least, he is exploring the option of doing as much.

According to, George Pearson is listed in the NCAA transfer database.  That would be the first step in the redshirt sophomore quarterback’s potential departure from the Central Michigan football team.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Pearson was a three-star member of the Central Michigan football Class of 2018.  Only one offensive signee in that cycle for CMU, wide receiver Keonta Nixon, was rated higher than the New Jersey product.  As a true freshman, Pearson completed 12 of his 24 passes for 94 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Pearson didn’t play a down for the Chips in 2019.

In 2018, Central Michigan lost a school-record 11 games.  In Jim McElwain‘s first season in 2019, CMU won went 8-6.  Included in the losses was a New Mexico Bowl beatdown at the hands of San Diego State.

Ole Miss pulls in second transfer from a university in Canada

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From Oh Canada to Ole Miss football?  I’m thinking one recruit might be in for a little culture shock.  Actually, make that two.

Last month, a Canadian college football player, the University of Guelph’s Tavius Robinson, committed to Ole Miss football.  On Twitter Wednesday, Deane Leonard did the same. The cornerback comes to the SEC school from the University of Calgary.

“First off I’d like to thank my friends, family, and coaches that have supported me through this process,” Leonard wrote. “I can’t thank each and every one of you enough for all that you’ve done for me over the years. Love you guys!

“With the cancellation of the USports season I’ve decided it’s in my best interest to look at my options down south.

“With that being said, I’ll be transferring to Ole Miss to complete my collegiate career.”

During his time at That Country Up North, Leonard appeared in 23 games.  In that action, the defensive back was credited with 47 tackles, 19 passes defensed, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, one tackle for loss, one sack and one block.  He also returned five kicks for 124 yards (24.8 average) and 19 punts for 195 yards (10.3 avg.).  One of those punts was returned for a touchdown.

Both Leonard and Robinson are expected to be immediately eligible for new head coach Lane Kiffin and the Rebels.

SEC commish issues statement in wake of Big Ten’s seismic announcement

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It didn’t take long for the most powerful man in SEC football country to respond to what the B1G wrought.

As you may have heard, the Big Ten confirmed Thursday afternoon that it will be going with a conference-only football schedule for the 2020 season.  That was the first significant Power Five domino to tip, but it certainly won’t be the last.  In the coming days, or perhaps next week, the ACC and Pac-12 are expected to make a similar announcement.  The Big 12 and SEC, though, are widely expected to kick that football scheduling can down the road a bit longer, perhaps as late as the end of July.

Not long after the B1G announcement, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement addressing just where his conference is at decison-wise.

The Southeastern Conference will continue to meet regularly with our campus leaders in the coming weeks, guided by medical advisors, to make the important decisions necessary to determine the best path forward related to SE Fall sports.  We recognize the challenges ahead and know the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans must remain at the forefront of those decisions.

Again, it’s expected that the SEC will make a decision on the football path it will take later this month.  Barring unforeseen circumstances pushing up that timeline, of course.

Big Ten commish, Ohio State AD decidedly pessimistic on B1G having a 2020 college football season

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The Big Ten toppled the first significant domino earlier in the day.  Now, two of the most powerful men in the conference are expounding on the development.  And, if you’re a fan of the sport, you might want to close your eyes when reading the next few paragraphs.  Or take several shots of an adult beverage before proceeding.

Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten confirmed reports that it will be going with a conference-only football schedule for the 2020 season.  All other fall sports are impacted in the same way.

In television appearances following the announcement, the B1G’s commissioner didn’t put a positive spin on football’s immediate future.

“One thing we have to realize is that this is not a fait accompli that we’re going to have sports in the fall,” Kevin Warren flatly stated. “We may not have sports in the fall, we may not have a college football season in the Big Ten. …

“We made a vow early on that, first and foremost, we would put the health, the safety and the wellness of our student-athletes at the center of all of our decisions.

Gene Smith was equally pessimistic.

“I can’t reiterate enough the fact that we might not play,” the Ohio State athletic director said in discussing football in 2020. “We just might not, and I think people need to understand that.”

It’s expected that other Power Five conferences will follow the lead of the Big Ten.  In the coming days, both the ACC and Pac-12 will most likely announce a conference-only football schedule.  The lone exception will be the ACC including Notre Dame, which already has six games against the conference on its 2020 slate, in any revamped schedule.

The Big 12 and SEC are widely expected to kick the scheduling can down the road a bit longer, perhaps as late as the end of July.  In the end, however, both of those Power Fives are likely to come to the same scheduling conclusion.