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Roll Tide Roll! Alabama storms back to beat Georgia in overtime, win fifth national title in Nick Saban era

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ATLANTA — A year ago in the final game of the season, Nick Saban thought he had won his fifth national title at Alabama behind an incredible comeback from a true freshman quarterback.

Turns out, that storyline had to wait a year.

Crimson Tide freshman signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to start the second half and cap off an epic comeback that won’t ever be forgotten around Tuscaloosa, beating SEC rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime on Monday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to deliver the school’s 13th recognized national championship.

Tagovailoa was a clear spark for the Tide from the moment he jogged onto the field out of the locker room to replace ineffective sophomore starter Jalen Hurts (3-of-8 passing, 47 yards rushing), who was part of the reason why the team was shutout in the first half. The five-star freshman from Hawaii was dynamic with the ball in his hands, scrambling out of near sacks numerous times (to go with 27 yards rushing) and throwing for 166 yards and three touchdown passes.

That second to last of those two scores came with just 3:21 left on the clock after he evaded the rush on fourth down to find superstar wideout Calvin Ridley waiting in the middle of the end zone for a seven yard strike. That tied the game at 20-all and sent a chill down the naturally pro-Georgia crowd who witnessed an all to familiar Atlanta sports moment in the process.

Bama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed the 36 yarder wide right as time expired but Tagovailoa didn’t mind, finding DeVonta Smith from 41 yards out to send up the confetti for the Tide in one of the most indelible moments in college football on the grandest stage the sport has to offer.

The story was a familiar one for the most part up until those final few minutes for the Bulldogs.

True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm made several clutch throws and the team got some incredible stops from linebacker Roquan Smith but it wasn’t enough in the end as the team played their second straight overtime game of this College Football Playoff. The former looked far from a youngster despite throwing two interceptions (one an arm punt on the second play of the game, the other off a tipped ball) and finished with a career high 32 attempts through the air to rack up 232 yards. Fromm was a big reason why the team was able to move the ball after a tough night on the ground.

The normally reliable UGA run game found things much harder to get going than it did against Oklahoma in their semifinal win out at the Rose Bowl. Sony Michel did rip off a 26 yard run to help keep a scoring drive alive early but was otherwise held in check (98 yards) along with teammate Nick Chubb (25 yards) as the team couldn’t hold onto a 20-7 lead in the second half.

The win keeps Saban a perfect 12-0 against his former assistants after beating Kirby Smart in what might be the most satisfying victory of the coach’s career. Not only did the Alabama legend tie Bear Bryant with sixth national title ring, he kept the dynasty rolling with the program’s fifth championship in eight seasons. After last year’s heartbreak with one second left on the clock, this time it was Alabama who reigned supreme to cap off the 2017 season in thrilling fashion with an ending that nobody will forget in the decades to come.

Illini DE who suffered severe spinal injury speaking, eating and sitting up

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There is some positive news when it comes to a distressing situation that developed over the weekend.

Illinois true junior defensive end Bobby Roundtree sustained what was described as a severe spinal cord injury in a swimming accident Saturday and underwent surgery a day later.  According to the Associated Press, Roundtree is progressing well following the surgery and, while he remains hospitalized, is speaking, eating and sitting up.

Several members of the Illini football program, including Lovie Smith, traveled to Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, Fla., to be with the injured player.

“Bobby Roundtree is exactly what you want in a student-athlete,” a statement from the head coach began. “He is a hard worker, dependable, a dedicated student and a leader.

“This is devastating to his teammates, the entire Fighting Illini family and his family and friends. We will give Bobby all the support possible as he battles through his recovery. Please keep Bobby and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Roundtree, who played his high school football in Largo, Fla., has started 20 games the past two seasons since coming to the Illini as a three-star member of their 2017 recruiting class.  This past season, the 6-5, 245-pound end led the Illini in tackles for loss with 12.5 and pass breakups, and was second in sacks with 7.5 and quarterback hits with four.

For that, the media named Roundtree honorable mention All-Big Ten for the 2018 season.

Iowa State officially adds Arkansas’ leading receiver

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Matt Campbell has officially added an experienced and productive piece to his Iowa State passing attack.

La'Michael Pettway revealed via Twitter in mid-January that he would be transferring from Arkansas; nearly four months later, he used the same social media vehicle to deliver the message that he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at Iowa State.  Monday, it was confirmed by the football program that the wide receiver has officially enrolled in classes at the university.

As a graduate transfer, Pettway will be eligible to play immediately for the Cyclones in 2019.

“I think the biggest thing he brings is he gives a veteran presence to this receiver group,” the head coach said according to the Des Moines Register. “[T]he opportunity to get a guy that’s done it at a very high level against really high-end competition can just add some veteran-ness to a group where there’s a lot of youth.”

This past season, Pettway led the Razorbacks in receiving yards with 499 and receptions with 30.  His four receiving touchdowns were good for second on the team.

Prior to 2018, Pettway had totaled 102 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

NFL Network to air 10 Conference USA games each fall

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The NFL Network and Conference USA struck a deal that will see the league air 10 C-USA games, starting this fall.

“While exploring new media options for football, NFL Network stood out as an excellent opportunity for national exposure,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “We look forward to showcasing our conference through their tremendous platform and reach.”

The contract runs for four years, and will see NFL Network air one game a week for 10 weeks.

“We are excited to showcase the next generation of NFL athletes to our fans on a weekly basis,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Our fans crave live football, and partnering with Conference USA – a conference which boasts several Hall of Fame players – provides us with an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Specific game announcements will be named at a later date. It’s an important move for C-USA, who has seen more and more of its games moved off of TV and onto streaming platforms, such as ESPN Plus, Stadium and Facebook. The league also has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network.

June Jones resurfaces as XFL Houston head coach

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The last we saw of June Jones, at least in the continental United States, he was mailing it in as SMU’s head coach. After leading the Ponies to four straight bowl trips from 2009-12, Jones watched SMU slip to 5-7 in 2013, then walked out the door after losing the first two games of the 2014 campaign by a combined score of 88-6. (That SMU team would finish the ’14 season at 1-11.) It seemed the then-61-year-old had given football all he had to give, at least on a competitive level.

Jones took 2015 off, then spent 2016 in a semi-retirement gig as the offensive coordinator at a high school in Hawaii.

But Jones must have really missed football, because he gave up the Hawaiian life to spend the past two seasons as head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and now he’s back stateside as the head coach of the XFL’s Houston franchise.

“I’ve spent a few years coaching in Houston, and having a chance to return to be a head coach in the XFL is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Jones. “I had a really great time coaching in the CFL, but this new fresh opportunity to build a team from the ground up is extremely rare in this game, and I’m looking forward to working with Brian Cooper and our coaches to give football fans in Houston a team that’s truly exciting to watch and worthy of their support.”

He was formally announced in a press conference at the University of Houston, and the as-yet-unnamed club will play its games at the Cougars’ TDECU Stadium.

It will be the fourth different professional league Jones has coached in, following stints in the USFL and NFL, in addition to six-plus seasons at SMU and eight at Hawaii.

The eighth of eight head coaches to join the league, Jones will join a roster that includes Bob Stoops and former Michigan offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.