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.
The 2018 season has not gotten off to the start Arkansas fans were hoping to see. After three straight losses have dropped the Razorbacks to a woeful 1-3 record, wide receiver Jonathan Nance has decided he is ready to move on from the program and look for a fresh slate.
Nance took to Twitter to announce his intention to transfer from the Razorbacks. He also noted he will use the 2018 season as a redshirt season, as he qualifies for that redshirt eligibility after appearing in the maximum games allowed before being forced to burn a year of eligibility under the NCAA’s new redshirt rule.
“I want to thank Arkansas and my coaches for giving me [an] opportunity to compete on this level,” Nance said in his Twitter statement.”It has been a great ride and have made life long friends that I will never take for granted.”
After leading Arkansas in receiving in 2017 with 37 receptions for 539 yards and five touchdowns, Nance caught just one pass for a loss of two yards in 2018. Nance will have one final year of eligibility to use wherever he lands next. There has been no indication of where his next stop may be at this time.
Nance’s announcement to transfer after four games may be a hint of things to come under the new redshirt rule. Because players can appear in up to four games before eligibility for the year is officially used up, it would not be shocking to see more players decide to make their transfer plans around this time of year after getting a sense of how the season may be going for them and having an idea where they fit in, or in Nance’s case, don’t fit in under a new scheme or a new coach.
Georgia starting right guard Ben Cleveland suffered a fractured left fibula in the Bulldogs’ 43-29 win at Missouri, according to Dawgs247.
According to the site, the injury will not require surgery or a cast, but Cleveland will miss “at least a month.” No. 2 Georgia hosts Tennessee on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) and Vanderbilt before a massive visit to No. 5 LSU on Oct. 13. They’ll take Oct. 20 before closing SEC play with Florida, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 10 Auburn.
The fibula is a non-weight bearing bone and, thus, a significantly less damage break than the tibia.
Cleveland is a redshirt sophomore from Toccoa, Ga. He has started Georgia’s last nine games at right guard.
The Cleveland injury is not the only ailment Georgia is dealing with at the moment. Dawgs247 noted starting left tackle Andrew Thomas, who missed the Middle Tennessee game with a left ankle injury and seemingly re-aggravated it in the first half, when a player rolled up on him. He did not return to the game afterward.
Fellow sophomore Justin Shaffer replaced Cleveland at right guard in the Missouri win.
On a night the Vols celebrated their 1998 national championship team, Tennessee played about as far away from national championship-caliber football as you’ll ever see a Tennessee team play. The Vols lost to Florida 47-21 in a game that was simultaneously better and worse than the final score. Tennessee was only out-gained 387-364 and won the first downs battle 18-14, but much of that was due all the short fields the Vols gave Florida after coughing up half a dozen turnovers. When fans started pouring out of Neyland Stadium early in the third quarter, the scoreboard read Florida 33, Tennessee 3.
And that’s not all.
Over the course of the game, head coach Jeremy Pruitt told linebacker Quart’e Sapp to leave the field after Sapp, Pruitt said, declined to enter the game.
“Since I’ve been here, Quarte has been a really good ambassador to our program, he’s done everything I’ve asked him,” Pruitt said. “He left the field because he wouldn’t go into the game when he was asked to go in. I don’t know how things were done before, but when you tell somebody to go in and they refuse to go in, we’re not going to do that around here. So I asked him to leave.”
On Sunday, Sapp released a statement on Twitter saying he did not refuse to go in the game. Sapp’s statement does not clarify exactly what happened, but he expressly denies he was asked to enter the game and refused.
“During the UT vs. UF game I was never asked nor did I refuse to go into the game. There was a sideline confrontation (I’m sure will be resolve internally that occurred and the other party had to be restrained.”
Sapp, a redshirt junior, was listed as Tennessee’s No. 2 weakside linebacker entering the Florida game. Given the praise Pruitt heaped upon Sapp above and the fact Tennessee can’t exactly turn away able bodies with Georgia, Auburn and Alabama coming up in its next three games, but bet here is this spat gets resolved internally and everyone moves on.
For the second year in a row, Antoine Winfield, Jr.‘s season ends just four games after it started.
After appearing in 12 games and starting nine as a true freshman in 2016, Winfield was lost for the year four games into his sophomore campaign of 2017. He obtained a hardship waiver to play this season as a redshirt sophomore, but now will miss the rest of the season to a foot injury suffered in a 42-13 loss to Maryland on Saturday.
He will undergo surgery on Monday.
In a statement announcing the injury, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck announced the Gophers will pursue another hardship waiver for Winfield, meaning he would be a fourth-year sophomore in 2019 if approved.
Winfield is the second Gopher to be lost for the season, following running back Rodney Smith.
“We are heartbroken for Antoine,” Fleck said. “Like Rodney Smith, I know he will keep his oar in the water, keep moving forward and will work tirelessly to return to the field next season. We believe Antoine meets the waiver requirement for a sixth year of eligibility and we will file that waiver with the NCAA at the conclusion of the season.”
Winfield led all Gophers defensive backs with 17 tackles on the year while tying for the team lead with one interception. He was also the team’s punt returner, notching a 76-yard score in a 48-10 win over New Mexico State on Sept. 1 and a 31-yard return in a 26-3 defeat of Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 15.
Minnesota (3-1) is off Saturday before visiting Iowa on Oct. 6