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No. 1 Alabama completes perfect regular season with Iron Bowl romp

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While the story of this Alabama season will be written by what happens next month, the 2018 Crimson Tide has already accomplished something very few teams do — something even more rare than a national championship in Tuscaloosa. The No. 1 Tide handled Auburn 52-21 on Saturday evening, completing just the fourth perfect regular season of the highly successful Nick Saban era of Alabama football.

Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) will head to Atlanta to face No. 5 Georgia in what is essentially a College Football Playoff quarterfinal game. Saban’s first two unbeaten teams, in 2008 and ’09, headed to Atlanta with similar stakes. The 2008 team lost to No. 2 Florida, who went on to win that season’s national title; the ’09 team upended the No. 1 Gators en route to the first of five (and counting) national titles under Saban. This time, of course, it’ll be Georgia looking for vengeance after losing the 2017 CFP National Championship on the same field they’ll play on next Saturday.

But to play a game with such stakes, Alabama first had to win this one.

Alabama led this one throughout, though it did get dicey just before halftime. Leading 17-7, Alabama had just suffered its first three-and-out when a group of Tigers broke through to block Mike Bernier‘s punt, which Auburn’s Jamien Sherwood recovered at the Alabama 23-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan Davis completed a throwback pass to wide-open running back Malik Miller, pulling the visitors within 17-14 at the break.

Facing their first close game of the season, Alabama accepted the ball to open the second half and immediately erased any drama. Tua Tagovailoa hit Jerry Jeudy for a 46-yard touchdown pass to put the Tide up 10, then essentially ended the game with a 33-yard strike to Josh Jacobs, stretching the Alabama lead to 31-14 just over five minutes into the second half.

Auburn pulled back within 10 when Darius Slayton scored a 52-yard snatch-and-dash touchdown, but Alabama answered with a 3-play, 75-yard touchdown drive culminating in a 40-yard Devonta Smith touchdown catch.

Tagovailoa ended his day at the 14:27 mark of the fourth quarter, firing a 22-yard scoring strike to Henry Ruggs III that saw the Heisman front-runner polish his resume by going 25-of-32 for 324 yards and five touchdowns with another 26 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Jalen Hurts entered the game on Alabama’s next drive and immediately fired a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle.

Jarrett Stidham played nearly the entire game and battled throughout, hitting 13-of-30 passes for 127 yards with a touchdown and an interception while taking numerous shots.

The win moved Alabama to 8-4 in the Iron Bowl in the Saban era and dropped Auburn, a preseason top-10 team, to 7-5 overall and 3-5 in SEC play.

Colorado lands Nebraska transfer LB Guy Thomas

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There’s a new Guy on the team at Colorado.

On Saturday, former Nebraska linebacker Guy Thomas announced his commitment to Colorado. “I give thanks to everybody that has been influential, and supportive in my life,” Nyon said in a graphic posted to his Twitter account. “I am taking this time to announce that I will be committing to the University of Colorado.”

Thomas first announced his transfer back in November; he appeared in just four games over two years on the club. He posted four tackles in as many games as a redshirt freshman in 2018, with three coming against FCS Bethune-Cookman.

“It’s not working out,” Thomas told the Omaha World-Herald upon his transfer.

Barring a waiver, Thomas will have to sit out the 2019 season and compete as a redshirt junior in 2020. He figures to contribute as a pass-rushing outside linebacker whenever he is cleared to play.

As of now, Jim Harbaugh plans to play Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game

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Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.

Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.

“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”

Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’KornBrandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.

Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.

The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.

Big Ten could realign divisions yet again, according to PJ Fleck

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Whether he knew it or not, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck broke news that will set certain circles of the college football blogosphere (including this one) by touching on the topic that is consistently gobbled up like Thanksgiving turkey: realignment.

“Change is inevitable,” Fleck told The Athletic. “I think we all know that. I think that the East and West have been around for a while. I like it, I like the division of it. But I don’t think it will stay the same. I think we’ll change it at some point because change is coming somehow, some way. And I think people are going to want to move it around, and shake it up a little bit.”

Fleck said the topic came up during the Big Ten’s spring meetings in Arizona; the conference did not comment on the topic.

The Big Ten split into divisions upon Nebraska’s 2011 arrival, memorably going with the idiotic Legends and Leaders alignment that was designed to protect rivalries and preserve competitive balance. That alignment lasted three years, until Maryland and Rutgers joined the party in 2014 and the conference rejiggered its alignment into a more sensible East and West split.

While a geographic divide does preserve rivalries and makes both logistical and logical sense, it has come at the price of competitive balance. The East champion has gone a perfect 5-for-5 in Big Ten title games under the current arrangement.

However, the East is a mere five games ahead of the West in regular season matchups, an average of one extra victory per season.

If — and at this point’s a very big if — the Big Ten does realign again, the conference could return to a Legends and Leaders format (hopefully with different names) or it could scrap divisions altogether, giving each school two or three protected rivals while putting the rest of the league in a regular rotation. The positive aspect of this alignment is it guarantees the top two teams would meet in Indianapolis, but the drawback is it could trigger an instant Michigan-Ohio State rematch.

It’s too early to report when and if a second realignment would happen, but as Fleck reminded us this week it is never too early to speculate.

Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos, RB Journey Brown suspended through rest of July

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The season does not begin today, but if it did Penn State would be without one of its best players.

Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin confirmed to the press at Big Ten media days that defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and running back Journey Brown are presently suspended for a “violation of team rules” dating back to spring practice. The suspension is slated to end Aug. 1.

Gross-Matos, a junior, led Penn State in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (20) while registering 54 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery on the season. He enters the year a candidate for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.

“I talk to him all the time,” Franklin told Lions247 of Gross-Matos, despite the suspension. “[He is] doing great.”

Brown, also a junior, posted eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown in 2018.