Who is Chicago’s true college football team of choice?
It may very well never wind up being Northwestern but the plucky Wildcats are defending their home turf well against No. 4 Notre Dame, taking a 7-all tie into the locker room after a half of play on Saturday night.
The Irish can certainly blame missed opportunities for the scoreboard reading like it does, fumbling on their opening possession and then missing a field goal later on in the first quarter. The lone scoring drive was an impressive effort — 14 plays, 79 yards — but that was just about all there was as both sides were playing a bit of a throwback game.
Quarterback Ian Book was just 7-of-14 for 107 yards in the half as the offense was lackluster in converting just 1-of-5 chances on third down. Dexter Williams was responsible for the lone touchdown but, in limited carries, it appeared that Jafar Armstrong was a tad more effective running the ball with 13 yards.
As a result of all… that, whatever it might have been, perhaps the most notable thing that actually happened in the game came before the two sides even took the field in an interesting bit of gamesmanship between the two head coaches:
The Wildcats were able to move the ball as the game went on and surprisingly did so running the ball in the first half. Isaiah Bowser led the way in that department with a robust 51 yards on 14 carries to pick up the slack from QB Clayton Thorson, who threw for just 53 yards.
Needless to say, adjustments at halftime will be key and that’s an area where Notre Dame has excelled this season so far while it’s been a bit of an Achilles heel in non-Big Ten play for Northwestern. There’s plenty of local, regional and national interest in the outcome of this one with the Irish eyeing a bid for the College Football Playoff but both sides need to pick it up if they want a win after a rough first few quarters.
We already knew that one of the greatest college football coaches in the history of the game was set to undergo a rather invasive medical procedure. Now, we know exactly when it’ll take place.
This past weekend, Nick Saban confirmed that he’ll have hip-replacement surgery at an unspecified time this offseason. Friday, USA Today was the first to report a specific date as the Alabama head coach is set to go under the knife this coming Monday. According to the Tuscaloosa News, the surgery will be performed that morning by Dr. Lyle Cain of Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center.
The procedure is expected to sideline Saban for a period of 6-8 weeks, a timeline that will allow the coach plenty of time to recuperate and rehabilitate ahead of the start of summer camp in early August.
That said, Saban’s biggest concern involves a sport that’s not football.
“The only thing I hate about it is, I’ll have to not play golf for six weeks or so,” Saban told USA Today. “… But this is the best time for me to do it. I do a lot of speaking and evaluating and film work and stuff like that, but we’re not practicing. Other than playing golf, I probably wouldn’t be very active. So this is the best time, and then it gives me a lot of summer to get back in shape.”
The 67-year-old Saban will be entering his 12th season with the Crimson Tide in 2019. “I don’t want to coach for one more year. I want to coach for a lot of more years,” the future College Football Hall of Famer said in explaining his decision to undergo the surgery at this point in time.
NFL teams owning (or providing significant assistance) to a bowl game is nothing new in this day and age but you can add another to the list of operators as the Gator Bowl has turned to the Jacksonville Jaguars in an effort to cut costs and help save the 75-year-old postseason game for several more years.
The Jacksonville Daily Record first made note of the moves, which were announced at the Jaguars’ annual state of the franchise presentation on Thursday. The team will formally take over “ticket sales and back shop operations.” The Florida Times Union also provided more context on the moves, which note that contracts expire after the upcoming game on everything from the TV deal with ESPN to title game sponsorship agreement.
“We’re in negotiations now for everything,” said Gator Bowl CEO Rick Catlett. “We got a good deal overall with the city [on the stadium], but not a great deal. We got to get the city to give us the same deal as Georgia-Florida with rent, concessions and parking. “We have to step up our game. We’re not going to be the Poulan Weed-Eater [Independence] Bowl. My instructions from our board is to move it forward or we’re done.”
Ticket sales and local revenue dropping were cited as the most pressing concerns to the financial health of the bowl, which is one of the oldest in the sport and has been held continuously since 1946.
It will be interesting to see if these financial trends continue for both the Gator Bowl and others at large. We’ve seen more and more bowl games get added to the docket in college football over the years but one of the mainstays to the lineup facing such challenges could be a warning that the system in the College Football Playoff era isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The NFL draft is this week and hundreds of college football players will formally be making the jump to the pros as a result. They won’t be the only ones going from Saturday’s to Sunday’s this fall however.
Per the NFL’s Twitter account dedicated to all matters officiating, five officials from the college ranks are being bumped up to crews in the league:
All five of the college football officials were part of the NFL’s Officiating Development Program according to Football Zebras. The Memphis Commercial Appeal also notes that the five were also involved as officials in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football this spring. Based on that, it’s pretty clear that the group as a whole was really focused on moving up to the NFL at some point and now get the call up to the big leagues.
Could it be? Could Florida actually leave the Sunshine State for a big non-conference game?
It might just be in the works.
In a nugget slipped into his column this week, plugged-in Austin American-Statesman writer Kirk Bohls notes that Texas and Florida are apparently working on a home-and-home series between the two very successful programs. Don’t get your hopes up just yet however — not just because the pairing might not happen but because it’s going to happen in the very distant future of 2030 and 2031.
We’re always supportive of big home-and-home matchups but like many out there wish things were a little closer than 11 years from now.
More notable than the date though is the fact that the Gators might actually leave the state for a true road game. That hasn’t happened in ages. Literally.
The last non-conference true road game that Florida played outside of the friendly confines of their own state came all the way back in 1991 against Syracuse (they lost). The Gators have typically stuck to lower level FCS/Group of Five opponents at home while also playing in-state rivals like USF, Miami and, of course, Florida State to fill out their non-conference slate.
That might all be about to change however as the team discusses things with the Longhorns. Let’s all hope that for the first time in 40 years that UF decides a non-conference road game might finally be worth it.