There are rivalry games… and then there’s the Iron Bowl.
The biggest game in the SEC nearly every regular season lived up to the billing once again with a thrilling, back-and-forth battle between No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Auburn for three and a half quarters that resulted in a 26-14 upset win for the Tigers at home to seize control of the SEC West title, the conference as a whole and likely the race for a spot in the Sugar Bowl for the College Football Playoff.
The difference on the Plains for the home team was undoubtedly quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The transfer by way of Baylor and a junior college that many expected to lead Gus Malzahn’s offense to a storybook season was terrific on the biggest stage in the sport once again in leading Auburn to their second win over a No. 1 team in three weeks. The dual-threat threw for 237 yards with pinpoint accuracy against that feisty Tide secondary and really made a difference with his legs, scrambling out of several sacks and rushing for 51 yards and a score. Stidham formed a tough one-two punch in the backfield with Kerryon Johnson (106 yards, one touchdown rushing), who churned out tough carries and recorded the first points of the game by way of a perfectly executed jump pass.
However there’s also some concern for Auburn over the status of their star tailback as Johnson pulled up lame on a play late in the fourth quarter and could miss the SEC title game and possibly more. He injured his shoulder earlier in the game on a diving run toward the pylon and appeared to be favoring it as he made his way to the injury tent.
While the effort was one of the best of the year for the Tigers, the same could not be said for their opponents from Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban’s side was uncharacteristically undisciplined between penalties, bad snaps and some awful numbers on third down (3-of-11). Quarterback Jalen Hurts lost a fumble but was otherwise the only source of offense for Alabama, throwing for 112 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 82.
However there wasn’t any magic left in the team as the Tide lost for the first time in the regular season since September of 2015.
The result also shakes up the College Football Playoff standings and presumably puts a number of different scenarios in play for the SEC possibly placing two teams in the final four. At the very least the conference itself will secure one bid as Georgia and Auburn meet again, this time in Atlanta, for the conference championship next Saturday and a likely trip to the Sugar Bowl semifinal.
Folks on the Plains will turn their attention toward the rematch tomorrow however, as the rest of Saturday night will be left to celebrate another win over a No. 1 team and their hated rivals to the West.
FIU announced on Sunday that former Panthers defensive back Emmanuel Lubin died in a car accident on Saturday night.
Lubinn (jumping, left) played in 45 games over four seasons for FIU, the most recent coming in 2018. He started all 13 games last season, collecting 31 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one sack and four pass breakups. For his career, Lubin compiled 86 tackles, 11 pass breakups and one interception.
“Tragically, we lost a great young man in Emmanuel Lubin last night,” FIU head coach Butch Davis said. “He was a hard worker, great teammate and was respected and loved by his teammates, coaches and staff at FIU. His character, work ethic and leadership were instrumental in leading our program to success these past two seasons. Our football program is mourning his loss and we will honor Emmanuel every day moving forward. Our hearts and prayers go out to his friends and family.”
Added former teammate Tyree Johnson: “Anybody who knows you would never say anything bad on your name because you literally lit up any room you were in…I never told you this because I assumed you knew, but you made me the man I am today. If it wasn’t for you, I’ll still be the same Teejayy from four yeas (sic) ago.”
The North Miami Beach native was 22 years old.
The Portal is as mysterious as it is powerful. Some souls enter never to be heard of again, others are out as quickly as they entered. The Portal blesses whom it decides to bless, and it’s not for us humans to understand. All we know is The Portal must be questioned.
For instance, there’s the case of Kyler McMichael.
On Friday, the former 4-star recruit was a Clemson Tiger. By Saturday, he was a North Carolina Tar Heel.
Roughly 24 hours after announcing his intent to transfer, McMichael had announced his new destination. “Beyond blessed and grateful to be apart (sic) of such an amazing team last year at Clemson, however today I begin my next Chapter in life as I redirect my journey and travel to Chapel Hill, to the University of North Carolina and become a Tar Heel.”
McMichael didn’t make a major impact on Clemson’s national championship team, but that’s largely because he was a true freshman playing for the eventual national champions.
The Atlanta native played in 101 snaps according to his Clemson bio, which was still live as of this writing, spread across 12 games, where he made two tackles.
Barring a waiver, McMichael will sit out the 2019 season and compete for the Tar Heels as a redshirt sophomore in 2020.
There’s a new Guy on the team at Colorado.
On Saturday, former Nebraska linebacker Guy Thomas announced his commitment to Colorado. “I give thanks to everybody that has been influential, and supportive in my life,” Nyon said in a graphic posted to his Twitter account. “I am taking this time to announce that I will be committing to the University of Colorado.”
Thomas first announced his transfer back in November; he appeared in just four games over two years on the club. He posted four tackles in as many games as a redshirt freshman in 2018, with three coming against FCS Bethune-Cookman.
“It’s not working out,” Thomas told the Omaha World-Herald upon his transfer.
Barring a waiver, Thomas will have to sit out the 2019 season and compete as a redshirt junior in 2020. He figures to contribute as a pass-rushing outside linebacker whenever he is cleared to play.
Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.
Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.
“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”
Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’Korn, Brandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.
Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.