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No. 1 Alabama blanks No. 3 LSU, claims fourth SEC West crown in five years

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The good news for No. 3 LSU: its defense defended No. 1 Alabama as well as can be expected. The Tigers held Alabama scoreless on their opening drive for the first time all season, snatched Tua Tagovailoa‘s first interception of the season and forced him to play in the fourth quarter for the first time since last season’s national championship game.

The bad news: it didn’t come close to mattering. Alabama’s defense swallowed LSU’s offense and cruised to a 29-0 win over the Tigers in Baton Rouge.

Playing without star linebacker Devin White for the first half, LSU hung tough for the first 28 minutes, trailing just 9-0 when Todd Harris, Jr., snared an interception of Tagovailoa at his own 4-yard line. But, after a 4-yard run on first down (LSU’s longest of the first half), LSU elected to pass on 2nd-and-6 from their own 8, and Anfernee Jennings planted LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at his own 1. After a punt, Alabama took over at its own 46 with 1:29 to go, and needed less than half of that.

Tagovailoa hit Jerry Jeudy for a 29-yard gain to move deep into LSU territory, then lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass to Irv Smith, Jr., effectively putting the game out of reach at 16-0.

Tagovailoa, the odds-on Heisman favorite, all but ended the game himself at the 5:14 mark of the third quarter, scampering for a career-long 44-yard touchdown run. He tossed a 15-yard score to Henry Ruggs III to open the scoring in the first quarter, and ended the game 25-of-42 for 295 yards with two touchdowns and an interception plus three carries for 49 yards and another score.

But perhaps the other quarterback’s stats were more indicative of how this game played out. The Tigers, who beat Alabama on the ground 151-116 a year ago, mustered just 12 yards on 25 carries. Given that, Joe Burrow would need to make like Tim TebowCam NewtonJohnny Manziel and Deshaun Watson did and beat Alabama by himself. Joe Burrow is not any of those players. He completed 18-of-35 throws for 184 yards and an interception, numbers that were plenty good to beat Mississippi State but stood no chance against Alabama.

In fact, the Tigers (7-2, 4-2 SEC) have not so much as scored on the Tide in Baton Rouge since a 20-13 overtime loss in 2014. They were blanked 10-0 in 2016 and held scoreless again on Saturday, as two late attempts to break the ice came up empty. Cole Tracy‘s 33-yard field goal with 10:45 left was no good, and Burrow was intercepted by Mack Wilson inside the Alabama end zone with 3:35 to play.

The win clinches Alabama’s (9-0, 6-0 SEC) fourth SEC West championship in five years and 12th overall. The Tide will meet No. 6 Georgia, a 34-17 winner at No. 9 Kentucky earlier Saturday, in a rematch of the 2017 CFP National Championship in the same stadium as that game.

Clemson OL: Notre Dame, not Alabama, was best team Tigers played

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Alabama-Clemson IV was historic in many ways back in January. Not only did the sport’s ruling elite meet in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight season (and for a third time in the title game), it was also the first time two 14-0 teams had ever met in the modern era of the sport.

We all know what happened at Levi’s Stadium too, a 44-16 shellacking by Dabo Swinney’s group that was the worst loss Nick Saban had suffered with the Crimson Tide and extra painful given the big stage. Predictably, that outcome was a big topic at both SEC and ACC media days on Wednesday as both programs took to the podium in Hoover and Charlotte respectively.

The day got off to a very eyebrow-raising start when Alabama blamed the lopsided loss on lack of preparation and focus (for a title game, it should be pointed out). Most folks probably just shook their head at such excuses out of Tuscaloosa but it was what it was.

Now enter Clemson for the follow up a little later on in the day. Offensive lineman John Simpson was asked about the above comments and, well, he seemed to go a different direction than most expected in his retort:

The Tigers topped the Irish 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl-hosted semifinal in what was a meeting of two teams who went undefeated in the regular season. While just about everybody considered Alabama on a different level from Notre Dame start-to-finish in 2018, obviously one offensive lineman at Clemson (and Irish AD Jack Swarbrick) did not.

No matter where your opinion might lie on this subject, you at least have to respect Simpson for giving Paul Finebaum‘s SEC-centric radio/TV show a month’s worth of talking points and angry phone calls from just one quote. And here we were lamenting that the senior guard was being brought to the ACC’s annual kickoff event instead of star quarterback Trevor Lawrence when nothing could have been further from the truth after a comment like that.

Something says that if Alabama-Clemson V winds up being a thing in this year’s edition of the Playoff, that line will be brought up a time or two by Saban as his team enters 2019 looking for a bit of revenge.

SWAC moving conference title game “permanently” on-campus after issues last season

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The Birmingham, Alabama area may be more well known for hosting SEC Media Days this week but the city was also the epicenter of another kickoff event in the SWAC’s annual media day on Tuesday.

And in contrast to their FBS friends down the road in Hoover, the SWAC actually had a bit of pertinent news to discuss in announcing that the league’s annual conference title game in football is moving away from a neutral site going forward.

“The permanent home of the SWAC championship will be on the campus of the higher seed,” commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

McClelland reportedly said several cities bid on hosting the game in the future but the lessons of 2018 had to be a big factor in the league sticking with the home-hosted model adopted by just about everybody outside of the FBS Power Five conferences. Last year the SWAC was forced to move their game on-campus from Legion Field after UAB won their CUSA division and had a chance to host their respective league title game.

Legion Field and the Blazers didn’t wind up actually hosting the CUSA title game but the simple threat of it happening pushed the SWAC out after the league had made a big deal about returning to Birmingham for the game after five years away.

The SWAC and its member schools will still have to worry about last minute location changes for their Dec. 7 title tilt but at least now it will be of their own making and not somebody else’s.

Pair of Eastern Washington players who were shot are out of the hospital, expect to play in 2019

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After a scary incident over the weekend in Spokane, two Eastern Washington football players were released from the hospital earlier this week and appear well on their way to making a full recovery despite some life-threatening injuries sustained in a shooting.

Per The Spokesman-Review, safety Dehonta Hayes was discharged on Saturday evening and defensive lineman Keith Moore was released on Monday after both were shot.

“Keith had broken up a fight outside and the guys took off running,” Hayes told the paper. “I was outside looking for my car keys, and as I got to my car door that was locked, I walked away and heard two pops. They shot at us.”

Despite the serious nature of things, each player still expects to contribute for the Eagles this year after both were listed as a starter coming into 2019. Hayes, who remarkably confirmed he still has a bullet that remains in his neck (!!!), said he’ll be back by camp on August 1st. Moore, who took one to the chest, will return closer to the end of the month.

It goes without saying that both guys are incredibly lucky to not only survive a shooting with those injuries, but to be able to bounce-back and play football just over a month later.

Doak Walker Award releases 2019 watch list

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On Tuesday, we admired the Davey O’Brien Award’s restraint when it came to its watch list. The reason we did that was evident Wednesday, when the Doak Walker Award dropped its watch list.

A whopping 71 players are on alert to be proclaimed the nation’s top running back, compared to yesterday’s 30 quarterbacks. Basically — with one notable exception — if you’ve got a clear starter, he made the list.

The notable exception? Kansas’ Pooka Williams, perhaps because the selectors are concerned that missing the Indiana State game will hurt his numbers that badly.

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor won the honor in 2018 and he’s back to defend it this year, which would make him the third player in the 30-year history of the award to repeat, joining Texas’ Ricky Williams (1997-98) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (2006-07). Taylor is the fourth Badger to win the Doak Walker, following Ron Dayne (1999), Montee Ball (2012) and Melvin Gordon (2014).

In addition to Taylor, returning finalist Travis Etienne (Clemson) made the list, alongside 2018 semifinalists Eno Benjamin (Arizona State), AJ Dillon (Boston College) and JJ Taylor (Arizona).

Ten semifinalists will be named in November, and three finalists will be announced Nov. 20. The winner will be named during the college football awards show on Dec. 12.

The full watch list is below:

Cam Akers, Florida State
Darius Anderson, TCU
Jafar Armstrong, Notre Dame
LaVante Bellamy, Western Michigan
Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
Max Borghi, Washington State
Isaiah Bowser, Northwestern
Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas
Darius Bradwell, Tulane
Shamari Brooks, Tulsa
Spencer Brown, UAB
Brittain Brown, Duke
Cade Carney, Wake Forest
Michael Carter, North Carolina
Ty Chandler, Tennessee
Andrew Clair, Bowling Green
Jashaun Corbin, Texas A&M
Reggie Corbin, Illinois
AJ Dillon, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
Travis Dye, Oregon
Travis Etienne , Clemson
Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
Dayton Furuta, Hawaii
Tre Harbison, Northern Illinois
Najee Harris, Alabama
Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
Jerry Howard, Jr., Georgia Tech
Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
Keaontay Ingram, Texas
Deon Jackson, Duke
Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State
Tony Jones, Jr., Notre Dame
Lopini Katoa, BYU
Joshua Kelley, UCLA
Bryant Koback, Toledo
Benny LeMay, Charlotte
Vavae Malepeai, USC
Kam Martin, Auburn
Jordan Mason, Georgia Tech
Greg McCrae, UCF
Anthony McFarland, Jr., Maryland
Tra Minter, South Alabama
Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
Marcel Murray, Arkansas State
Moe Neal, Syracuse
Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
Lamical Perine, Florida
Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss
Trey Ragas, Louisiana
Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State
Larry Rountree III, Missouri
Mekhi Sargent, Iowa
Cameron Scarlett, Stanford
Stevie Scott III, Indiana
BJ Smith, Troy
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Kesean Strong, Old Dominion
D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Toa Taua, Nevada
Corey Taylor II, Tulsa
J.J. Taylor, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Patrick Taylor, Memphis
DeAndre Torrey, North Texas
Breck Turner, Eastern Michigan
KeShawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
CJ Verdell, Oregon
Quardraiz Wadley, UTEP
Michael Warren II, Cincinnati
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas