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No. 1 Alabama puts a Hurts-ing on No. 20 USC

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With a score this lopsided, you have to wonder how else No. 1 Alabama might have needed to handicap itself to make romp over No. 20 USC competitive. Because as it is, the Tide played with a true freshman quarterback playing in his first game behind an offensive line that is still congealing, and in its first game without its longtime defensive coordinator and Heisman Trophy-winning running back. And Alabama still won 52-6.

USC was simply no match for Alabama. Perhaps it USC is still paying for the residual effect of the Reggie Bush sanctions. Perhaps it was playing with a rookie head coach against the greatest to ever do it. Perhaps USC just simply wasn’t ready. Perhaps it was all of those things combined. The final result saw its former head coach Lane Kiffin drop half a hundred on the team that fired him, and the Trojans learned exactly how far they have to go to reach the level of college football they once owned.

Saturday’s game before a sold out AT&T Stadium actually started well for the Trojans. USC accepted the ball to open the game, hit a 36-yard connection from Max Browne to Darreus Rogers on its second play and took a 3-0 lead, which it held to the midway point of the second quarter.

Then Alabama grabbed the lead on a 39-yard scoring strike from Jalen Hurts to ArDarius Stewart, and it never looked back.

In barely a quarter of game action, Alabama turned a 3-0 deficit into a 38-3 laugher. Marlon Humphrey returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown to put the Tide’s defense on the board, and Hurts accounted for three third-quarter touchdowns — another long strike to Stewart (71 yards, this one) and two short runs.

Hurts endured some typical boneheaded freshman plays — including fumbling away a zone read exchange on his very first snap — but recovered to connect on 6-of-11 passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while rushing nine times for 32 yards and two touchdowns. And this is probably a low point for him.

USC notched a second field goal late in the third quarter, and Alabama responded by tacking on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a two-yard plunge by Bo Scarborough and a 45-yard catch-and-run score from starter Blake Barnett to Gehrig Dieter.

Overall, Alabama (1-0) held just a 15-11 edge in first downs but out-gained the Trojans 465-194. The Tide gained 7.4 yards per play to USC’s 2.9, and held a 242-64 edge on the ground. Ronald Jones II led USC (0-1) in rushing with seven carries for 46 yards — 46 of which came on one play — while Damien Harris paced Alabama with nine carries for 138 yards.

Minnesota projecting potential $75 million loss due to COVID-19

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The worst case for Minnesota when it comes to COVID-19 is a hefty bottom line hit.

The school’s board of regents met on Tuesday and detailed some of the initial modeling they are projecting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking just of the athletic department, that could result in nearly $75 million in lost revenue alone for the Gophers.

The Athletic’s Eric Vegoe detailed one of the slides from the meeting, which shows an overall $200 million hit to the university at large in a worst case — or “severe” — scenario:

Obviously the severe scenario that shows COVID-19 lasting into the fall is projecting a serious loss of revenue as the result of no (or reduced) college football. The sport makes up the vast majority of Minnesota’s revenues and has untold impact on other items such as donations as well.

USA Today’s database of athletic department revenues show the Gophers had nearly $125 million in revenue through the 2017-18 school year. While that figure has undoubtedly climbed higher as Big Ten media rights distributions have escalated, the number provided to the regents is still a huge chunk of that amount.

Even the moderate estimate of things lasting through the summer could result in a 20% shave on the department’s income.

It goes without saying that finances across the board in every industry will be impacted by the global pandemic but slides like the one above are a good reminder that even in the tiny world of football or college athletics, the cuts will probably have to run quite deep. And if a school like Minnesota is potentially forced to cut back, just imagine what other Group of Five programs will have to go through.

At some point college football will return to our lives but the ramifications of this current battle against the coronavirus figure will certainly have a far-reaching impact well beyond the gridiron. Sadly, no amount of ‘Rowing the Boat’ will be able to change that fact.

Bay Area official does not expect sports to return “until at least Thanksgiving”

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So much of the intersection of the coronavirus and college football has centered on when the game might return this fall.

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy wants players back as soon as May. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is confident that Death Valley will be packed come September. Virginia Tech’s athletic director has floated moving the calendar back just to get a full slate in.

In short, nobody knows.

That unknown has weighed heavily on most as they are asked to discuss the topic in recent days. What is left unsaid however, is that no coach or administrator will truly be in charge of determining the date CFB returns. That will be left to health officials at the local level.

One such official broached that topic this week. Speaking to the Santa Clara County (in the California Bay Area) Board of Supervisors, Dr. Jeffrey Smith believes sports in general may be looking more toward winter than fall whenever it returns.

Per the Los Angeles Times:

Smith on Tuesday told that county’s Board of Supervisors that he did not expect there would be “any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we’d be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving. This is not something that’s going to be easy to do.”

Santa Clara County is home to both Stanford and San Jose State. It’s also located in the region of the United States that was at the forefront of shutting down as a response to COVID-19 last month.

If those in charge don’t see a return to the football field until turkey time, those optimistic projections of getting the season done on time can probably be thrown to the wind.

Let’s hope that won’t turn out to be the case and the world can get a medical miracle it desperately needs. But until that happens, it’s probably best to be more pessimistic when it comes to the 2020 season than optimistic.

Survey of ADs shows momentum for expanded College Football Playoff

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At some point normalcy will return to college football. When that will be is anybody’s guess but it will come at some point.

When it does, much of the focus in the sport will return to matters like… College Football Playoff expansion. Yes, everybody’s favorite subject isn’t being forgot even if the attention is elsewhere nowadays due to the coronavirus.

Stadium recently conducted a wide-ranging survey of FBS athletic directors and one of the big questions asked was not surprisingly about the future of the CFP. To nobody’s surprise, the move toward eight or more teams in the annual postseason tournament is gathering plenty of momentum.

Per Brett McMurphy:

A whopping 88 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) athletic directors want an expanded College Football Playoff when the current playoff contract ends after the 2025 regular season, according to a survey conducted by Stadium.

Of those athletic directors who favor an expanded playoff, 72 percent believe eight teams should qualify. Also, 66 percent of the ADs said the highest-ranked non-Power Five team should receive an automatic bid to an expanded playoff.

Since its inception as a four team event, the idea of expansion for the College Football Playoff has been a pretty constant talking point. Some have made their feelings known publicly at all levels.

“More and more fans are only concerned with the playoffs,” a Power Five AD told Stadium. “That’s sad, but true, so we should expand the playoffs when possible. Even if that impacts the bowl system. We have to figure out a way.”

So mostly it’s been a question of when and not if. The focus on the latter has typically centered around the expiration of the CFP television contract with ESPN after the 2025-26 season. Executive director Bill Hancock has remarked a few times that there is no “look-in” with the deal to formally renegotiate the contract. Still, there would need to be some groundwork laid and a decision made well before 2025 in order to make the necessary changes to things like semifinal dates and stadium sites.

Given the potential revenue shortfalls due to the on-going COVID-19 situation, perhaps things will be accelerated over the course of the summer but we’re entering a window where the talk about moving to eight teams or beyond is going to start turning into some action.

It sounds as though the ADs are on board with formally expanding the chase for the national championship and this latest survey only confirms as much.

Brian Kelly confirms talks to move Navy-Notre Dame game in Ireland due to COVID-19

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College football jumping across the pond to Ireland may have to take a raincheck due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Though many have been wondering if college football will be played this fall, one of the more anticipated games on the 2020 schedule could be on the move regardless. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly confirmed that discussing are being had regarding moving the opener against Navy that was to take place Week 0 in Dublin, Ireland.

As Douglas Farmer of NBC’s Inside the Irish relays:

The two rivals’ annual game was scheduled to take place at Aviva Stadium and mark the third time they’ve played in the city over the past few decades. The teams have met every year since 1927 and the event was expected to draw nearly 35,000 fans.

Any potential change is also notable given that ESPN’s College GameDay was also supposed to be at the game with their first ever international edition as a way to kickoff the 2020 season.  While game times were not completely set for Week 0 prior to the pandemic, the Navy-Notre Dame contest was likely to be one of, if not the, first games of the college football calendar.

Who knows when — or where — the Irish will wind up playing the Midshipmen eventually, but like everything changing as a result of the battle against COVID-19, things are taking a backseat to the health and safety of others. That certainly includes a game of overseas pigskin.