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Kirby Smart sends Alabama to SEC title game as Georgia upsets No. 9 Auburn

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Kirby Smart no longer coaches for Alabama, just as Maurice Smith no longer plays for them. But a former Tide coach and player did a major favor for their former team as Georgia upended No. 9 Auburn 13-7 in Athens. The loss dropped Auburn to 5-2 in SEC play, thereby clinching the SEC West championship for the undefeated Tide.

Of far more importance, of course, for Smart is what this means for his new team. The win sends Georgia (6-4, 4-4 SEC) to a bowl game, extending the program’s streak to 20 consecutive seasons. It’s Smart’s first win over a top-10 team, and the program’s first since beating a similarly-ranked No. 9 Auburn team in 2014. And it provides an image of what this program wants to become under Smart, an image for the new staff to point players, fans and recruits to and say “this is where we’re going, now hop aboard.”

It didn’t look that way through one half, though. Georgia’s offense was stuck in mud and the defense played well but still permitted 109 rushing yards and the game’s only score, a 3-yard Kerryon Johnson rush with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.

But Smart’s defense completely smothered Auburn in the second half.

The half started when, after two incomplete passes, Auburn quarterback Sean White fired an interception directly into Smith’s gut, who returned the ball 34 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

Every other Auburn possession ended after just three plays except the final one. And that one only lasted four because the Tigers ran out of time to punt. When accounting for Smith’s 34-yard return and the seven points it produced, Auburn’s second half produced a net of minus-2 yards and minus-7 points.

That’s not to say the Georgia offense found success against its Auburn counterparts, however. The Bulldogs never found the end zone, but two Rodrigo Blankenship field goals — a 45-yarder at the 13:44 mark of the fourth quarter and a 21-yard chip shot with 2:25 to play — on the heels of 13- and 14-play drives provided enough offense.

And, unlike Auburn, Georgia’s offense avoided the crucial mistake. Freshman Jacob Eason completed 2o-of-31 passes for 208 yards (and narrowly missed catching a reverse pass from Terry Godwin that would’ve provided a clinching touchdown before Blankenship’s final field goal) while Nick Chubb carried 23 times for 101 yards and Sony Michel added 55 yards on 10 attempts.

The Tigers’ offensive numbers finished as ugly as their drive chart. White completed 6-of-20 passes for 27 yards and that pick six, while six Auburn rushers managed only 14 rushing yards in the second half.

With a closing kick of Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech before the bowl game, Georgia can now reasonably point toward a possible 5-game winning streak to send Smart’s first season out with a bang.

Auburn, meanwhile, must regroup after this dud and use next week’s working vacation against Alabama A&M to prepare for Alabama without a possible SEC championship on the line.

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick doesn’t sense a lot of momentum for CFB Playoff expansion

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We’re at the dawn of a new season in college football but for a lot of folks, the upcoming campaign is a lot more about the ending than the beginning. We’re talking of course about the thing that dominates the debate in the sport for much of the fall: the College Football Playoff.

Though it seems like we’re stuck at four teams in the postseason event for the foreseeable future, expansion of the playoff is a topic that seems like a never ending well. Most want it, but few in power seem to be pushing for it.

That point was reiterated this week by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. The leader of a program who made last year’s edition of the final four and one of the more powerful people in college athletics recently told the South Bend Tribune that he doesn’t see a move to six or eight teams in the event anytime soon.

I don’t want to speculate on that. I don’t sense a lot of momentum,” Swarbrick said. “But again, this is a group of individuals who cares about college football and think about it all the time. And so that’s all you want, a process where people are always talking about how to make the game better. But I don’t sense any particular momentum for change right now.”

If anybody would have some insight into the thought process regarding expansion, it’s bound to be Swarbrick — who sits on the CFP Management Committee and has his school president on the overarching CFP Board of Managers.

Perhaps something will change by 2025 when the postseason contract comes up with ESPN but until then, get used to four teams.

Missouri AD Jim Sterk is even more mad about NCAA penalties after Mississippi State case

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At some point in the distant future, Missouri fans, coaches, players and administrators will forget about the sanctions that the NCAA handed out to their football program.

That day is not today however.

Hot on the heels of Friday’s decision by the NCAA to slap the wrist of Mississippi State over a somewhat similar academic fraud case, Tigers AD Jim Sterk is telling anybody who will listen just how wronged his school was in the wake of what happened at his SEC rival.

“We believe that the penalties imposed in the recently decided and factually similar case (at Mississippi State) further illustrate that the penalties imposed on Mizzou were excessive and inconsistent with previous case precedent,” Sterk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We have never wavered from our stance or the merits of our appeal and remain hopeful it will be successful.”

The Tigers are hopeful that an appeal will be decided in the fairly near future and, obviously, that it will be a favorable ruling.

There are a handful of differences between Mizzou’s and the Bulldogs’ cases and enough to make comparing them apples to oranges despite being under the broad umbrella of academic fraud. We’ll see what ultimately ends up happening but something says that short of a complete reversal, Tigers fans and others sporting the gold and black won’t be happy with the NCAA for a long, long time.

Wisconsin confirms that Jack Coan will indeed be the Badgers starting QB this season

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The latest completely unsurprising quarterback decision? Step right up Wisconsin!

As has long been expected, the Badgers confirmed via their Week 1 depth chart release on Sunday that junior Jack Coan would be the Badgers starting quarterback for the upcoming season:

Coan was an obvious choice for Paul Chryst given his experience at the position and one wonders what took the program so long in naming him the guy given his five starts last season, including leading a blowout of a Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl. He threw for 515 yards and five touchdowns (against three interceptions) last year and replaced a rather ineffective Alex Hornibrook down the stretch.

With Hornibrook transferring to Florida State in the offseason and both Graham Mertz and Chase Wolf being freshmen, picking Coan to lead the team under center was an expected end result.

Perhaps the far more interesting name on the Wisconsin depth chart is that of wide receiver Quintez Cephus as the backup behind Kendric Pryor. While the former’s talent undoubtedly makes him one of the top options in the passing game, it’s still notable to see his name pop up given that he was so recently reinstated to the team following his acquittal of sexual assault charges earlier in the month.

Cephus has been practicing with the team but he did miss all of last season while dealing with the legal issues and will have less than two weeks of practices under his belt before the opener at USF on Aug. 30.

Either way, we at least know where he stands in the pecking order for the Badgers and who will be throwing him passes this season as UW gets set to make another run at the Big Ten title.

Georgia DL Bill Norton arrested on a number of alcohol-related charges

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The SEC East sure is having itself a weekend. And only a handful of teams can say that’s a good thing.

Hot on the heals of Tennessee DB Bryce Thompson getting arrested, Georgia is now dealing with an arrest of their own. While the charges are not quite as serious as those in Knoxville, they are still enough to make Kirby Smart blow a gasket or two.

As per DawgNation, Bulldogs freshman defensive lineman Bill Norton was booked on a number of alcohol-related charges early Sunday morning and eventually released on bond. Record show he was cited for driving under the influence, failure to maintain lane/improper driving and minor in possession of alcohol.

A court date does not appear to have been set just yet in the matter.

While there seemed to be little chance that Norton saw action in the opener against Vanderbilt on Saturday night, his arrest probably ended any slim hope of seeing the field or traveling with the team to Nashville.

A four-star prospect coming out of high school in Tennessee, Norton picked Georgia over fellow SEC rivals Alabama, Ole Miss, Tennessee and others.