Winnin’ with Mr. Cooper: Bama rolls Auburn, averts SEC playoff disaster

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For the better part of three quarters in Tuscaloosa Saturday night, it appeared the SEC was very likely on the verge of being shut out of a spot in the College Football Playoff.  And then Amari Cooper happened.

In yet another instant Iron Bowl classic, Cooper fueled a furious second-half comeback that pushed top-ranked Alabama to a 55-44 win over No. 15 Auburn in a game that was the highest-scoring in the history of the storied rivalry.  The 99 points scored easily surpassed the previous high of 75 in 1969, while the Tide’s 55 points tied the most points by one team in the series (Alabama, 55-0 in 1948).

Early in the third quarter, Auburn had actually stretched its lead to 33-21.  A 34-3 run to close out the game, however, set the postseason table for the Tide.

Alabama had already clinched the SEC West title before taking the field thanks to Mississippi State’s Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss; the win ensured there would be no co-champions, as well as kept its CFP hopes very much alive.

Were it not for Cooper, however, the Tide would’ve been licking their wounds over a loss that could very well have fatally wounded any shot at a playoff spot.

Trailing 33-21 midway through the third quarter, Alabama’s All-American wide receiver got behind Auburn’s secondary for a pair of scores totaling 114 yards to cut the lead to 36-34.  The mere threat of Cooper helped lead to a Blake Sims‘ 11-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that, with the two-point conversion, gave the Tide a 42-36 lead, its first since late in the first half.

Cooper finished the game with 13 receptions for 224 yards and three touchdowns, a performance that could very well have sealed a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.  The yardage, incidentally, set an Iron Bowl record, and was one yard shy of his school record set Oct. 25 of this year against Tennessee.

Blake Sims ‘ fourth touchdown pass of the game, this one to DeAndrew White, with 8:05 remaining in the fourth quarter pushed it to a two-score game.  In addition to the four touchdown passes, Sims completed just over 70 percent of his 27 attempts for 312 yards.  He did, though, become the first Nick Saban quarterback to throw three interceptions in a single game.

The Tide’s defense also deserves plaudits, as does whoever it was that made the halftime adjustments.  After getting gashed for 383 yards and 26 points in the first half, the Tigers’ high-powered offense was limited to 182 and 10 in the second half before AU’s final drive with the game in hand.  They also held on a critical fourth down late in the game, with Auburn inside the ‘Bama 15-yard line and on the verge of pulling to within five points with a touchdown.

On the ensuing possession, a pair of Derrick Henry runs — one for 49 yards, the other a 25-yard touchdown jaunt with 3:46 left on the clock — proved to be the dagger.

The Tide now turns their attention to the SEC championship game next Saturday night against Missouri.  A win there would ensure ‘Bama a spot in the playoff — something that looked less than certain just a couple of hours ago.

Florida WR Dionte marks makes way into transfer portal

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The Florida Gators are the latest Power Five program to see its football roster nicked by the transfer portal.

First reported by Matt Zenitz of al.com, wide receiver Dionte Marks is headed into the NCAA transfer database.  A Florida football official subsequently confirmed that the redshirt freshman has informed the program of his intention to take the [portal for a test drive.

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.

Barring a waiver being granted, Marks will have to sit out the 2020 season if he moves on to another FBS school.  That would then leave the Deland, Fla., product with three years of eligibility starting in 2021.

Marks was a three-star member of the Florida football Class of 2019.  The receiver’s only other Power Five offers came from Florida State, Nebraska and West Virginia.  FAU and UCF were in the mix as well.

As a true freshman, Marks took a redshirt for the 2019 season.  He did, though, appear in a pair of games, but didn’t produce any stats.

This is the first known Florida football player to leave the program since offensive lineman Isaiah Walker transferred to Miami in early May.  In between, UF has picked up transfers from Miami and Mississippi State.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history, including Alabama-USC confirmed for 2020 opener and a book claiming Texas, boosters offered Nick Saban $100 million-plus to leave Crimson Tide

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The sports world, including college football, had essentially screeched to a halt in the spring as countries around the world battled the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there was a dearth of college football news as the sport went into a COVID-induced hibernation.  Slowly, though, the game is coming back to life.  Hopefully.

That being said, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on July 16, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this college football down-time, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Big 12 coordinator of officials clears up when ‘horns down’ is and is not a penalty
THE SYNOPSIS: Amen.  It’s about time someone looked out for the feelings of those associated with the University of Texas’ college football team.  [/wanking motion]

2018

THE HEADLINE: Lincoln Riley suggests there is a competition for QB that nobody should believe
THE SYNOPSIS: Kyler Murray was the presumptive front-runner.  And he won the starting job.  And the Heisman Trophy a few months later.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Les Miles’ daughter is trying to convince him to be a broadcaster but Mad Hatter still wants to coach
THE SYNOPSIS: In December of 2018, Miles was named as the head coach at Kansas. But not before building up his acting résumé, though.

2016

THE HEADLINE: THE Michael Jordan to serve as honorary captain for Michigan’s opener
THE SYNOPSIS: Since becoming part of the Air Jordan apparel family in 2015, U-M has finished third, third, fourth, tied for first and third in the Big Ten East.  And has stretched its losing streak to rival Ohio State to eight straight and 15 of the last 16.  The Jumpman logo on the uniforms does look cool, though.

2015

THE HEADLINE: Clemson K charged with coke possession ‘will miss some time’
THE SYNOPSIS: Courtesy of Clemson, the first cocaine kicker in the College Football Talk collective.  What a proud moment.  Both for that and the alliteration in this synopsis.

2014

THE HEADLINE: Alabama-USC set for 2016 opener in Arlington
THE SYNOPSIS: Yeah, not so much.

2014

THE HEADLINE: New book: Texas, boosters offered Nick Saban $100 million-plus to leave Tide
THE SYNOPSIS: Saban and his wife both very vociferously stated they weren’t leaving Tuscaloosa.  Saban’s high-powered agent, Jimmy Sexton, though, reportedly played point man in at least a couple of meetings with those connected to the Longhorns football program.

2012

THE HEADLINE: Butch Davis says he wants to coach again
THE SYNOPSIS: This pronouncement came two years after his NCAA-induced departure from North Carolina. And five years prior to his return to the coaching game at Florida International.

2010

THE HEADLINE: NCAA probe into UNC football program ‘sounding very serious’
THE SYNOPSIS: Speaking of Butch Davis

2019 finalist Chuba Hubbard, 2018 finalist Travis Etienne two of the 76 Doak Walker Award watch listers

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If you’re a starting running back at the FBS level, there’s a fairly good chance you are part of the Doak Walker Award watch list.

Monday, it was the Bednarik Award kicking off watch list season.  Tuesday, the Davey O’Brien Award joined in.  A day later, the Doak Walker Award joined the burgeoning list of honors releasing their preseason watch lists.

This award, given annually to the nation’s top running back, features a whopping 76 preseason candidates.  Included in that are 2019 finalist Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State and 2018 finalist Travis Etienne of Clemson.  Last year’s winner was Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor.

Every FBS conference is represented on the list.  The Big Ten and Pac-12 lead the way with 10 apiece, followed by the ACC and SEC with nine each.  The other Power Five, the Big 12, landed five. Wih seven apiece, the Mountain West and Sun Belt led all Group of Five conferences.

Of the more than six dozen watch listers, 30 of them are seniors.  Another 28 are juniors while the other 18 are sophomores.

Below are all 76 running backs who make up this year’s Doak Walker Award preseason watch list.

Drake Anderson (So.), Northwestern
David Bailey (Jr.), Boston College
Max Borghi (Jr.), Washington State
Rakeem Boyd (Sr.), Arkansas
Gary Brightwell (Sr.), Arizona
Kennedy Brooks (Jr.), Oklahoma
Shamari Brooks (Sr.), Tulsa
Christopher Brown, Jr. (Jr.), Cal
Journey Brown (Jr.), Penn State
Spencer Brown (Sr.), UAB
Noah Cain (So.), Penn State
Jamale Carothers (Jr.), Navy
Stephen Carr (Sr.), USC
Michael Carter (Sr.), North Carolina
Andrew Clair (Jr.), Bowling Green
Elijah Collins (So.), Michigan State
James Cook (Jr.), Georgia
Jashaun Corbin (So.), Florida State
ReMahn Davis (So.), Temple
Travis Etienne (Sr.), Clemson
Demetric Felton (Sr.), UCLA
Alex Fontenot (Jr.), Colorado
Kenneth Gainwell (So.), Memphis
Tyler Goodson (So.), Iowa
Eric Gray (So.), Tennessee
Breece Hall (So.), Iowa State
Najee Harris (Sr.), Alabama
Javian Hawkins (So.), Louisville
Justin Henderson (Sr.), Louisiana Tech
Kylin Hill (Sr.), Mississippi State
George Holani (So.), Boise State
Chuba Hubbard (Jr.), Oklahoma State
Caleb Huntley (Sr.), Ball State
Mohamed Ibrahim (Jr.), Minnesota
Keaontay Ingram (Jr.), Texas
Deon Jackson (Sr.), Duke
Jermar Jefferson (Jr.), Oregon State
Josh Johnson (Sr.), ULM
Amare Jones (Jr.), Tulane
Lopini Katoa (Jr.), BYU
Wesley Kennedy III (Sr.), Georgia Southern
JD King (Sr.), Georgia Southern
Brenden Knox (Jr.), Marshall
Bryant Koback (Jr.), Toledo
Kobe Lewis (Jr.), Central Michigan
Vavae Malepeai (Sr.), USC
Kevin Marks (Jr.), Buffalo
Jordan Mason (Jr.), Georgia Tech
Kevin Mensah (Sr.), Connecticut
Dedrick Mills (Sr.), Nebraska
Elijah Mitchell (Sr.), Louisiana-Lafayette
Marcel Murray (Jr.), Arkansas State
Richard Newton (So.), Washington
Jaret Patterson (Jr.), Buffalo
Trey Ragas (Sr.), Louisiana-Lafayette
Miles Reed (Jr.), Hawaii
Ronnie Rivers (Sr.), Fresno State
Larry Rountree III (Sr.), Missouri
Mekhi Sargent (Sr.), Iowa
Stevie Scott III (Jr.), Indiana
B.J. Smith (Sr.), Troy
Isaiah Spiller (So.), Texas A&M
SaRodorick Thompson (So.), Texas Tech
Toa Taua (Jr.), Nevada
Corey Taylor II (Sr.), Tulsa
Xazavian Valladay (Jr.), Wyoming
CJ Verdell (Jr.), Oregon
Quardraiz Wadley (Sr.), UTEP
Gaej Walker (Sr.), Western Kentucky
Kenneth Walker III (So.), Wake Forest
Jaylen Warren (Sr.), Utah State
Nakia Watson (So.), Wisconsin
Zamir White (So.), Georgia
Charles Williams (Sr.), UNLV
Javonte Williams (Jr.), North Carolina
D.J. Williams (So.), Auburn

Multiple Power Five teams already expressing interest in Virginia transfer Ja’Quay Hubbard

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One erstwhile Virginia football player has already proven very popular in the transfer portal.

Late last week, Ja’Quay Hubbard was one of two Virginia football players to enter the NCAA transfer database.  Less than a week later, it’s being reported that multiple Power Five schools have already reached expressing interest in the offensive lineman.  Among those?  Florida, Iowa State, Michigan, Mississippi State, Pitt, Rutgers and West Virginia.

Reportedly.

Pitt is on Virginia’s 2020 schedule, it should be noted.  The Cavaliers are scheduled to play host to the Panthers on Nov. 21 of this year.

Hubbard will not be leaving the Cavaliers as a graduate transfer, it should also be noted.  He will have to sit out the 2020 season if he moves to another FBS program.  That would leave him with three years of eligibility starting in 2021.

In mid-March, Bronco Mendenhall revealed that Hubbard had decided to leave the Virginia football team.  At the time, the head coach stated that the lineman would be on the move to an unspecified junior college.  Whether that will still be the case remains to be seen.

Hubbard was a three-star 2019 signee.  He played in two games as a true freshman, which allowed the lineman to take a redshirt.