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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.

South Florida handing out free tickets to rivalry game vs. No. 11 UCF

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The War on I-4 was one of the very best games of 2017. With the AAC East championship on the line, 10-0 UCF hosted 9-1 South Florida before a national television audience and a packed Spectrum Stadium crowd. It was a game the visiting Bulls led 34-28 entering the fourth quarter, UCF rocketed forward to take a 42-34 lead with 2:21 to play, South Florida tied with 1:41 remaining on an 83-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion, and then UCF immediately wrestled the lead back with game-winning 95-yard kickoff return.

Regardless of classification, conference, what have you, it was one of the most intense and entertaining games of the entire season.

Fast forward a year with the scene shifting to Tampa and it’s safe to say the atmosphere will not be the. UCF is controls its fate to win the American, but South Florida does not. The Bulls are 7-4 overall and 3-4 in conference play.

With their rivals traveling southeast on Interstate 4 (hence the rivalry’s name) South Florida’s powers-that-be were apparently nervous about black-and-gold taking over the green-and-old in their own stadium, so they decided to give out some free tickets.

It’s not exactly fair to say USF has worse fans than UCF. USF shares its home with a pro team while UCF does not. Thus, USF has to fill a larger stadium (65,890) than UCF (45,031). Knights fans also get to root for a better team than Bulls fans, at least over those past two seasons.

Even given those caveats, it still may be more embarrassing to give out free tickets to your rivalry game rather than just selling them to your rivals.

South Florida hosts No. 11 UCF at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN on Friday.

Broyles Award for top assistant narrows field to 15 semifinalists

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The most prestigious award a college football assistant can claim has significantly narrowed its list of potential winners.

Tuesday, the Broyles Award unveiled its 15 semifinalists for the 2018 version of its hardware.  Four of the semifinalists come from the SEC, while two each hail from the Big 12, Pac-12 and football independents.  The ACC has two of the 15 and the Big Ten has one.

Group of Five conferences account for three of the semifinalists as UAB, UCF and Utah State are all represented.  Army also accounts for one of the semifinalists.

Of the 15 semifinalists, seven are defensive coordinators and seven are offensive coordinators.  Just one position coach made the cut — UCF offensive line coach Glen Elarbee.

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was the 2017 winner of the Broyles Award; the Tigers’ other offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, is a semifinalist this year.

Alabama – Mike Locksley, Offensive Coordinator
Army – Jay Bateman, Defensive Coordinator
Cal – Tim DeRuyter, Defensive Coordinator/Outside Linebackers
Clemson – Jeff Scott, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Georgia – Sam Pittman, Offensive Line
LSU – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator
Mississippi State – Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Notre Dame – Chip Long, Offensive Coordinator
Oklahoma – Bill Bedenbaugh, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
UAB – David Reeves, Defensive Coordinator
UCF – Glen Elarbee, Offensive Line
Utah State – David Yost, Offensive Coordinator/QBs
Washington State – Tracy Claeys, Defensive Coordinator
West Virginia – Jake Spavital, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

Miami Hurricanes down to one healthy tight end, a walk-on

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To say that injuries at the tight end position have been an issue for Miami this season would be a significant understatement.

In early August, Michael Irvin II suffered an MCL injury in his right knee and will be out for up to four months.  In mid-September, the Hurricanes were down to two healthy scholarship tight ends when Brian Polendey suffered a season-ending injury.

Unbelievably, both of the remaining scholarship tight ends, Brevin Jordan (pictured) and Will Mallory, who are both true freshmen, were injured in last Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech.  Both Jordan, who is second on the team in receptions with 30, and Mallory will be sidelined for the regular-season finale against Pitt this weekend.

The good news is that, per head coach Mark Richt, the two tight ends should be healthy enough to return for a bowl game.  The bad news?  According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Hurricanes are now down to just one healthy tight end, and he’s a walk-on — Nicholas Ducheine.

The redshirt freshman Ducheine has appeared in two games this season — Week 2 vs. Savannah State, Week 12 vs. Tech — and is still looking for his first career reception.

Houston-Washington State to serve as 2019 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game

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With the curtain about to fall on the 2018 regular season, there’s some news on the next regular season on which to note.

Houston had already been scheduled to open the 2019 season against Washington State on Saturday, Sept. 14.  Tuesday, however, it was announced that that matchup has been selected as the 2019 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game.

The game will now be played Friday, Sept. 13, at NRG Stadium in Houston.

“We are excited to face a quality program such as the Houston Cougars next year in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game at NRG Stadium,” said Washington State athletic director Pat Chun in a statement. “It provides our fan base the opportunity to see a tremendous nonconference opponent in a great part of the country, while giving our student-athletes the chance to play in a world-class stadium.”

“We are honored to receive the invitation to participate in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff,” Chun’s counterpart, Chris Pezman, said in his statement. “We have fond memories from our last action in the event and look forward to creating more in front of our hometown fans in a primetime nationally-televised game.”

Houston has played in the Kickoff Classic one time previously, a 33-23 win over Oklahoma in 2016.  This will mark Wazzu’s first appearance in the game.

The two football teams have met three times previously, the first coming in 1959 and the most recent in the 1988 Aloha Bowl.  The Pac-12 Cougars own a 2-1 edge in the miniseries.