Associated Press

Alabama picking up right where it left off

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The last we saw Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa used his electrifying, unorthodox style to team with a group of young, athletic wide receivers to lead an astonishing comeback past Georgia to win the national championship. Nine months later, not much has changed. Through one half in Orlando, Alabama holds a 28-0 lead over Louisville.

Nick Saban finally, officially deemed the sophomore Hawaiian has his starting quarterback just before the top-ranked Crimson Tide kicked off against Louisville, and it was immediately evident why. Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and immediately moved 65 yards in seven snaps, reaching pay dirt on an 11-yard strike from Tagovailoa to Jerry Jeudy.

The Tide’s next drive ended prematurely when a Tagovailoa connection to Devonta Smith (the fellow sophomore on the receiving end of Tagovailoa’s golden rainbow last January) ended in a fumble at the Louisville 17-yard line. No matter, Alabama forced a three-and-out and then marched 55 yards in six plays, scoring on a 9-yard Tagovailoa rush, pushing their lead to 14-0 at the 4:04 mark of the first quarter.

Louisville threatened to get on the scoreboard on the ensuing possession, but Jawon Pass was intercepted by Deionte Thompson, one of five new starters in Alabama’s defensive backfield, in the end zone. After a 25-yard return, Alabama was inside Louisville’s 10-yard line three plays later, thanks largely to a 49-yard rainbow from Tagovailoa to true freshman Jaylen WaddleNajee Harris gave Alabama a 21-0 lead three plays later.

If there was one weak point for Alabama in the first half — and you know a sect of Tide fans is looking for one — it’s that Jalen Hurts played two second quarter series and the Tide didne’t score on either of them. The junior’s two series covered a combined 52 yards but both ended in punts.

Alabama seemed content to take a 3-touchdown lead into the break, but Waddle broke free for a 31-yard punt return to the Louisville 25 with 27 ticks left in the half, and Tagovailoa returned to capitalize in the form of his second touchdown pass to Jeudy of the night with nine seconds remaining in the half.

Tagovailoa closed the half hitting 11-of-15 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns while rushing five times for 26 yards and a score. Damien Harris leads all runners with 51 yards on six carries. Alabama scored on four of Tagovailoa’s five possessions, with the fifth being Smith’s fumble inside the Louisville red zone.

Pass completed 10 of his 19 passes for an even 100 yards with the one pick to Thompson. The Cardinals will receive to open the second half. Louisville as a team has rushed for 13 yards on nine credited carries.

Rutgers hires search firm to help find new football coach

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Rutgers has officially been in the market for a new head football coach for over a week, and now the school is going to get some help from a search firm.

Rutgers announced a new partnership with Ventura Partners on Monday. The firm will help Rutgers in searching for a new head football coach and may assist in helping to hire other new leaders in the future as Rutgers looks to revitalize their entire athletics department.

“We are excited to be working with Ventura Partners,” Rutgers Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs said in a released statement on Monday. “They provide a unique range of services, including talent acquisition and development. We will begin working together immediately to ensure excellent leadership for our football program. They will also be working with us throughout the engagement on strengthening our human resources and providing market data and intelligence.”

Rutgers fired Chris Ash as head coach on Sept. 29, which is a costly move thanks to a previous contract extension. The Scarlet Knights have since been dealing with a handful of players redshirting the remainder of the season and an abysmal performance on the road against Indiana in which the team gained just 75 yards of offense while giving up over 500 yards to the Hoosiers.

Mike Aresco expects to hear update on AAC championship game waiver “in the next month”

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With the upcoming departure of UConn from the American Athletic Conference, the staus of the AAC Championship Game is officially in question. Without 12 football-playing members, the AAC does not satisfy the NCAA requirement to play an official conference championship game without a waiver. Not wanting to give up the title game just a few short years after implementing it (and accepting the extra revenue generated in the TV contract), AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is hoping to get some positive word on a waiver request sometime soon.

How soon?

It looks like we may have an update on this situation within the month. The sooner, the better.

UConn is leaving the AAC after this current football season, and Aresco has made it clear the conference still wants to continue playing its conference title game. The current plan is for the AAC to scrap the two-division format entirely and pit the two best teams in a conference championship game at the end of the regular season (an idea that would work well in almost every conference, by the way). The AAC reportedly field a formal waiver to allow for the championship game to live on back in August.

The Big 12 currently only has 10 members and has been granted permission to field a conference championship game on top of the round-robin schedule played during the season. If the Big 12 can have a conference title game without 12 members, then the AAC should be getting confirmation their conference championship game will continue too. But waiting for the official word is needed before the conference can start making plans for 2020 and beyond.

At this point, there remains no sign the conference is looking to add a 12th member for football, which would negate the need for a waiver. But if the waiver is denied, for some reason, then expect the AAC expansion rumors to start flying once again.

Michigan Class of 2018 four-star TE Mustapha Muhammad enters NCAA transfer portal

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The NCAA transfer portal has been busy this Monday. Add Michigan tight end Mustapha Muhammad as one of the latest entrants into the transfer portal. Muhammad made the transfer portal news himself with an announcement on his Twitter account Monday afternoon.

Muhammad is a redshirt freshman. He will have to sit out the 2020 season if he lands at another FBS program, and he will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning 2021. By entering the transfer portal, Muhammad is free to have contact with any other football program looking to recruit him out of Ann Arbor. The Texas native signed with Michigan over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson, among others. Unfortunately, the highly rated recruit hasn’t been able to establish a key role in the Michigan offense early on, even with the Wolverines offense looking for playmakers.

Michigan’s tight end position appears to be settled with Nick Eubanks and Sean McKeon reaching the midway point of the season as Michigan’s leading tight ends when it comes to receiving yards. Eubanks is fifth on the team overall with 128 receiving yards and a touchdown. McKeon has added 96 yards and two touchdowns. Both players are seniors, however, but Michigan also has redshirt freshman Luke Schoonmaker as an option at the tight end position moving forward.

Oregon DB Kahlef Halassie steps into transfer portal

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Oregon defensive back Kahlef Hailassie is now officially on the market. Hailassie announced on his Twitter account on Monday afternoon he has officially entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.

A sophomore and a member of Oregon’s Class of 2018, Hailassie is now eligible to have contact with any other college football program that may be interested in recruiting him to their program. when he committed to the Ducks out of high school, Hailassie chose Oregon over offers from Colorado and Washington State, among others. Hailassie had previously committed to Colorado during his recruiting process, only to de-commit shortly after an official visit to Boulder.

Hailassie played in just three games this season before being sidelined with an injury. Because he has played in fewer than four games, Hailassie can use the 2019 season as a redshirt year. Hailassie played in all 13 games for Oregon as a true freshman in 2018, recording one tackle as a reserve player and a special teams player. Hailassie will have to sit out the 2020 season if he ends up at another FBS program, which would make him eligible to return to the field with two full years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2021.