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No. 1 Alabama overwhelms No. 3 Florida State to win biggest opener ever

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It’s insanely difficult to get it done, but a blueprint to beat Alabama exists. You have to score. A lot. If you score and keep scoring, eventually the Tide will buckle. No matter how good your defense is, you have to score and keep scoring.

Florida State’s defense was quite good on Saturday night, but it wasn’t near enough to beat Alabama as the top-ranked Crimson Tide handled the 3rd-ranked Seminoles 24-7 in the biggest opening game in college football history.

The final score matches that of the last time Alabama played in Atlanta, a 24-7 win over Washington in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Peach Bowl. And like that game on New Year’s Eve, the Seminoles actually reached the end zone first.

After Alabama opened the scoring with a 35-yard Andy Pappanastos field goal, Florida State strung together by far its best drive of the night, moving 90 yards in 11 plays capped by a 3-yard fade from Deondre Francois to Auden Tate to give the Seminoles a 7-3 lead at the 13:41 mark of the second quarter.

But Alabama immediately answered with its own best drive of the night, an 85-yard blitzkrieg in five plays that ended on a 53-yard rainbow from Jalen Hurts to Calvin Ridley to put Alabama on top at 10-7. That score would hold through the end of the first half, through what would prove to be the pivotal moment of the night, when Francois fired into the end zone to Nyqwan Murray and Tony Brown got away with a clear pass interference.

Florida State was forced to settle for a field goal try, which was blocked.

After a punt to open the second half, Florida State entered a stretch when its offense and special teams quite literally could not hold onto the ball. First, running back Damien Harris blocked a Florida State punt, which turned into an Alabama field goal. The ‘Noles fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Harris again capitalized by racing in for an 11-yard touchdown dash. A 2-point pass from Hurts to Ridley staked Alabama to a 21-7 lead with 1:41 to play in the third quarter.

Needing two scores to tie the game, the Florida State offense took its turn unraveling. Alabama intercepted two consecutive Francois passes, threatening the Florida State offense to the point where the ‘Noles next two possessions — two three-and-outs, two yards gained combined — felt like small accomplishments simply by getting the punt team on the field. Francois was sacked by Ronnie Harrison and came down holding his left knee; he had to be helped from the field and did not return.

Francois finished the night hitting 19-of-33 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while the Seminoles scratched out only 25 yards on 24 credited carries.

Alabama posted modest numbers offensively: 96 passing yards, 173 on the ground on 42 carries. But when the defense and special teams are as predictably and unflinchingly dominant as they were, 24 points by Alabama feels like 50 by anyone else.

The win pushed Alabama (1-0) to 14-1 in Atlanta, 8-0 in neutral site openers and 11-0 against former Nick Saban assistants. Florida State (0-1) will look to become the first team since Miami in 1983 to win a national championship after losing its opener.

Michigan to visit South Africa later this year

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After visiting Italy and France over the past two springs, Michigan is taking a break from Europe and hitting South Africa in 2019. Wolverines director of football operations Mark Taurisani made the announcement through his Twitter account on Tuesday.

Jim Harbaugh started the field trips (which are funded by Michigan donors) as part of an educational experience for Wolverines players. The 2017 Italy trip was incorporated with Michigan’s spring practice, but the Wolverines did not practice in France last year and will not practice in South Africa this year, either.

Specific dates and tour sites have not been announced. The Wolverines will leave after the completion of the spring semester, which concludes after Michigan’s April 13 spring game.

Michigan lands All-MAC graduate transfer from Central Michigan

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As a Detroit native, Mike Danna has probably spent his entire life hoping and wishing and believing he could play at Michigan. While playing at Warren De La Salle Collegiate High School, he probably thought it. Throughout the recruiting process, when Michigan didn’t offer him and he signed at Central Michigan, he probably thought it.

Now he’ll get a chance to prove it.

Danna on Tuesday announced he was leaving CMU to spend his final college season with the big boys in Ann Arbor.

The 6-foot-2, 257-pound defensive end won the Herb Deromedi Award as CMU’s most valuable player after collecting 66 tackles, a team-high 15 TFLs and 9.5 sacks. He was named a First Team All-MAC honoree and a Pro Football Focus First Team All-American as well.

In three seasons as a Chippewa, Danna posted 151 tackles, 28 TFLs, 15 sacks and four forced fumbles.

While he may or may not start, Danna will be a significant contributor for the Wolverines in 2019. Michigan loses starting ends Chase Winovich (graduation) and Rashan Gary (draft), so Danna will team with senior Josh Uche (who led the team with eight sacks last season) and sophomore Aidan Hutchinson.

Miami to reportedly play Miami in 2023

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College football is notoriously hard to predict, but go ahead and mark this prediction down in ink: in the 2023 season, Miami will beat Miami.

Miami (Florida) will host Miami (Ohio) in 2023, according to FBSchedules. Neither school has announced the game as of this writing. The game will be played Sept. 2, 2023 at Hard Rock Stadium in Coral Gables, Fla.

In what has been previously dubbed the Confusion Bowl, the two Miamis have played three times previously, with the Hurricanes winning each time. All three games were in Miami, Fla., and green-and-orange Miami won by scores of 27-13 in 1945, 20-17 in 1946 and, most recently, 54-3 in 1987.

Miami (Ohio) will net $1.5 million for the trip, according to FBSchedules.

Miami (Fla.) has a home game with Texas A&M and a visit to Temple lined up elsewhere for 2023, while Miami (Ohio) will visit Cincinnati and host Liberty.

Brian VanGorder replaces Carl Pelini as Bowling Green DC

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After a little over two months on the job, one of the most glorious mustaches in all of college football has earned a promotion.

Tuesday, Bowling Green announced that Brian VanGorder has been named as first-year head coach Scot Loeffler‘s defensive coordinator.  In mid-December, the MAC school announced VanGorder’s hiring as linebackers coach and associate head coach.

VanGorder replaces Carl Pelini, who left last month to pursue another coaching opportunity.

VanGorder has served as a coordinator for a significant portion of the last decade, including stops at Louisville (2018), Notre Dame (2015-16), Auburn (2012) and the Atlanta Falcons (2008-11).  Prior to his one-year stint at Louisville, VanGorder served as a defensive analyst at both Georgia (2016, after he was fired by Notre Dame) and Oklahoma State (2017).

Interestingly, Bowling Green will travel to South Bend Oct. 5 this year to take on Notre Dame.

With VanGorder’s promotion, the Falcons also announced that Jim Herrmann has been hired to replace the new defensive coordinator as linebackers coach.  Herrmann will also carry the title of associate head coach.

Herrmann has spent the past baker’s dozen seasons as linebackers coach at the NFL level, with stops with the Indianapolis Colts (2016-18), New York Giants (2009-15) and New York Jets (2006-08) dotting his résumé.  His last college job at this level came during a lengthy stint at his alma mater Michigan (1985-2005).  The last nine years of his time in Ann Arbor, Herrmann worked as the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator.