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Alabama transfer Brandon Kennedy on the move to Tennessee

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A new SEC rule is already paying dividends for at least one player — and one program — in the conference.

Last month, Brandon Kennedy opted to leave Alabama as a graduate transfer.  The offensive lineman, as it turns out, had been interested in a transfer to Alabama rivals Auburn and Tennessee; as had been the case in the past — or not — Kennedy had been barred by UA from transferring to any other school in the conference despite the fact that he’s a graduate transfer.

While the player’s initial appeal of that ruling was denied, said ruling is now immaterial as VolsQuest.com is reporting that “Kennedy has officially decided to play for the Vols.” The Rivals.com website adds that “Kennedy is expected to take part in second session or July term summer school at Tennessee and is already in Knoxville around the program.”

June 1, the SEC confirmed that it had adopted a rule which states that graduate transfers are permitted to transfer within the conference without having to sit out a year.  Not only will the lineman be eligible to play immediately this season for the Vols as a result of that edict, he’ll also have another year of eligibility he can use in 2019.

Kennedy served as the Crimson’s Tide backup center in 2017, his redshirt sophomore season, before an injury sidelined for most of the year.  After graduating in December, Kennedy exited spring practice this year as the defending national champion’s likely No. 2 center.

A four-star 2015 signee, Kennedy was rated as the No. 19 guard in the country and the No. 10 player at any position in the state of Alabama.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, he played in six games in 2016.

Nick Saban asks media to write something not-so-positive about his top-ranked Alabama team

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The infamous rat poison is back in Tuscaloosa, albeit wrapped in slightly different packaging this year.

Through four games, top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama hasn’t even remotely been tested.  They have outscored their four opponents 215-51, including a 45-23 win over No. 22 Texas A&M earlier today that didn’t feel as close as the 18-point final margin.

In early October of last year, following a win over A&M ironically enough, Nick Saban was lamenting “[a]ll that stuff you [in the media] write about how good we are,” likening it to “rat poison” for his players.  Nearly a year later, the head coach is asking the media to, in essence, find something negative about his team and write about it “so I can show it to the players and say, ‘Look here, man. Here’s something you can do better.'”

Seriously.

From ESPN.com:

I don’t want to get into the rat poison again. We have a good team, but our team needs to do a lot of things to improve, all right?

“If what our team has accomplished to this point makes them in any way not take into account the kind of teams that we have to play in the future, and they underestimate what we need to do to improve so that we can become a better team and don’t just take things for granted, all right, that we’re going to show up because we have an Alabama uniform on and win the game, it’s not going to happen that way, and it’s going to be everyone’s choice in the organization.

“So I would appreciate it if you would sort of look at some of the things we didn’t do so well, all right, and write about that so I can show it to the players and say, ‘Look here, man. Here’s something you can do better.’

One, Saban is simply the best.  Ever.  Two, It’s really, really, really difficult, at least statistically, to find much of anything negative to say about what could be his best-ever Crimson Tide team.

In the 45 statistical categories on NCAA.com, Alabama headed into the weekend in the top third in a full 34 of them; they were in the top half in another three.  There were, however, some areas that Saban could sound the alarm to his troops:

  • T-80th in red zone defense
  • T-87th in fewest penalties
  • T-93rd in fewest penalty yards per game
  • T-92nd in fumbles lost
  • T-80th in fumbles recovered
  • 90th in net punting

And then there’s this: Alabama is one of a select few teams that have yet to block a kick or a punt this season.

So, there ya go, coach.  That’s all I got at the moment.

Iowa and Wisconsin staging an old fashioned B1G slobberknocker

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Through one half in Iowa City, Iowa and No. 18 Wisconsin are knotted in a 7-7 tie.

In a game without many scoring opportunities, Kirk Ferentz made a very un-Ferentz like decision and it immediately came back to bite him.

After forcing a Wisconsin punt to open the game, Iowa marched from its own 15 to the Wisconsin 12 when Nate Stanley hit running back Ivory Kelly-Martin for a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-8, taking the ball to the Badgers’ 5, setting up a 4th-and-1. The Iowa offense hurried to the line, but a pair of false starts by Iowa’s guards were wiped out when the replay official stopped play to review the spot. Given the chance to think it over, Ferentz chose to go for it again, and Stanley’s sneak was stuffed.

Wisconsin immediately took advantage, moving 95 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a 6-yard Alex Hornibrook pass to Jake Ferguson at the 14:31 mark of the second quarter.

The teams traded punts on their next possessions and Iowa seemed primed to punt again when Stanley loaded up to throw on a 3rd-and-9 from his own 34, but his rainbow found T.J. Hockenson for a 46-yard gain, which he hauled in despite defensive pass interference on the play. Stanley put Iowa on the board with a 20-yard scoring strike to Noah Fant on the next play, evening the game at the 5:15 mark of the first half.

Iowa forced another Wisconsin punt on the ensuing possession, but the Hawkeyes’ momentum was wiped out when Kyle Groeneweg‘s 23-yard punt return to midfield ended in a fumble forced and recovered by Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon.

Still, Iowa’s defense forced another punt, and the Hawkeyes expired the final minute to send the game to the half.

QB Justin Herbert, No. 20 Oregon sharp in jumping out to halftime lead against No. 7 Stanford

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After playing three lackluster opponents to open the season, just about everybody in the country was wondering just how good undefeated and No. 20 Oregon was this season. Turns out, pretty good.

The Ducks struck early and never looked back in their huge Pac-12 showdown against No. 7 Stanford, taking a 24-7 lead into the halftime break and looking every bit like the better team on both sides of the ball so far at Autzen Stadium.

In his first big impression for Heisman voters this year, Oregon QB Justin Herbert was nearly perfect through the air with 170 yards, a touchdown and just a single incompletion. He hit several big plays between the hashes and also chipped in by showing off his mobility with 42 yards on the ground as well. Dillon Mitchell hauled in a 53-yard pass on his way to triple figures (126) receiving while tight end Jacob Breeland found the end zone on one of his two catches. CJ Verdell chipped in with 75 yards and a score running the ball too.

The Cardinal offense was not nearly as explosive in the first half. Tailback Bryce Love was mostly held in check with just 41 yards rushing while K.J. Costello powered offense down the field with several big throws on his way to 114 yards. He also tossed a touchdown pass which came, not surprisingly, on a jump ball in the end zone to JJ Arcega-Whiteside from 13 yards out.

We’ll see how this one will play out but the two Pac-12 North rivals have staged some incredible second half battles over the years and that could be the case once again. Defensive adjustments for Stanford will prove key to making things interesting because the Ducks are certainly proving to be better than advertised just two quarters into their season actually getting underway.

Colorado State becomes FBS’ seventh FCS victim in 2018

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Don’t worry, Colorado State.  You certainly have some company.

Colorado State came into Saturday’s game in Fort Collins as anywhere from a four- to a six-point favorite over FCS No. 16 Illinois State.  After 60 minutes of play, the Rams exited with an embarrassing 35-19 loss at the hands of the Redbirds.  It was actually even worse than the final score indicated as the Rams scored a garbage-time touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth to slice into what was a 22-point deficit.

CSU simply had no answer defensively as ISU put up 538 yards of total offense — 271 passing, 267 rushing.  Most notably, they allowed ISU to run for 6.4 yards per carry.

With the loss, CSU becomes the seventh FBS team to lose to an FCS team this season.  The others?

  • UC Davis 44, San Jose State 38 (August 30)
  • No. 19 Villanova 19, Temple 17 (September 1)
  • Northern Arizona 30, UTEP 10 (September 1)
  • No. 18 Nicholls State 26, Kansas 23 in overtime (September 1)
  • No. 14 North Carolina A&T 28, East Carolina 23 (September 2)
  • No. 22 Maine 31, Western Kentucky 28 (September 8)

This is actually a “down” year for the FCS (thus far) as last season there were nine such FBS losses, the same number as in 2015.  In 2016, the FBS lost 10 games to lower-level teams.  The single-season record for FCS wins over FBS teams is 16, set in 2013.

Exactly 10 years ago, there were two FCS upsets — Cal Poly over San Diego State and New Hampshire over Army.

The last time there was an FCS upset past September was 2015, when Georgia State and North Texas lost in October.  South Carolina dropped one in November of that year as well.

And the first-ever FCS upset of an FBS team, since the 1978 split to I-A and I-AA? Lamar lost to Stephen F. Austin Sept. 23, 1978.  A little over three years later, the Cardinals dropped down to the FCS level, where they have remained ever since.

That same year, by the way, Boston College lost to UMass 27-0 in late November in the midst of a 0-11 season.  UMass, of course, now plays at the FBS level.