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Déjà vu: No.1 Alabama rallies again behind backup QB to deny No. 4 Georgia another (SEC) title

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11 months ago, Nick Saban turned to his backup quarterback to lead a remarkable comeback with everything on the line and captured a national title in the process. Against the same team, in the same venue, with an SEC championship on the line, the Alabama head coach had to do so once again on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta.

Jalen Hurts entered off the bench and sparked an incredible storybook comeback against the Bulldogs in the process to capture a 35-28 victory and return the Crimson Tide to the top of the SEC once again. 

Even the legions of script writers in Hollywood who have moved to the Peach State wouldn’t have been able to spin this tale and get it into production.

Hurts, who was 26-2 as a starter for the team but was benched at halftime of last year’s national title game, entered in the fourth quarter to replace an injured Tua Tagovailoa. This year’s starter was fairly ineffective most of the game (10/25, 164 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) after being hobbled on an early sack and the Heisman Trophy favorite was carried off the field late after his ankle was rolled up on by one of his offensive linemen.

That was just the opening that the junior from Texas needed, entering to huge applause from the Alabama faithful at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hurts finished the game with 82 yards through the air and had the game-tying touchdown on a scramble to Jerry Jeudy. Then, to cap things off as only he could, Hurts ran it in across the goal line for the exclamation point of the comeback with the game-winner from 15 yards out.

There will be plenty of questioning from Athens to Atlanta (and beyond) over the play calling for the Dawgs down the stretch after they built a 28-14 lead in the third quarter. That included an inexplicable fake punt at midfield in the final few minutes — that went nowhere — and the abandoning of the run in favor of downfield passes that just weren’t there like they were in the first half.

Quarterback Jake Fromm was not to blame all things considered as he was pinpoint with his passing most of the game and finished with 301 yards and three touchdowns. It wasn’t enough though as he suffered yet another heart-break at the hands of UGA’s SEC West rivals.

Tailback D’Andre Swift also played well with 75 yards and a touchdown while Elijah Holyfield added another 60 hard-fought yards between the tackles.

The loss will likely knock the Bulldogs out of the College Football Playoff race with No. 5 Oklahoma winning the Big 12 title earlier on Saturday. Even so, a Sugar Bowl berth isn’t a terrible consolation prize but the psyche of fans in red and black might need a few years to recover from what Alabama did to them in two games spanning 2018.

The Tide, meanwhile, will not only hoist their eighth SEC championship under Saban, but will all but assuredly move on as the No. 1 seed in the Playoff come Sunday afternoon. That means a berth in the Orange Bowl if the No. 4 seed is Oklahoma or the Cotton Bowl if it’s Ohio State or even Notre Dame. Also something to keep track of is what kind of effect the performance will have on Tagovailoa’s Heisman chances and whether he will be healthy come semifinal time too.

That will be a conversation for the coming weeks though as Alabama will celebrate yet another title in Atlanta thanks to their second incredible rally of the year over the Dawgs.

Former Oregon QB Braxton Burmeister lands at Virginia Tech

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Former Oregon quarterback Braxton Burmeister has signed with Virginia Tech, the Hokies announced on Saturday.

Burmeister signed with Oregon out of La Jolla Country Day High School in the San Diego area and made five starts as a true freshman in 2017 while stepping in for the injured Justin Herbert. His results were… that of a true freshman who had been trained to play only in mop-up duty, if at all. In 77 passes, Burmeister completed 57.1 percent of his throws for just 4.3 yards per attempt with two touchdowns against six interceptions.

Herbert returned to health in 2018, and as a result Burmeister returned to the bench. He threw just 10 passes in four appearances last fall.

Herbert elected to return for his senior season, and as a result Burmeister elected to enter the transfer portal. Even considering Herbert’s return, Burmeister’s decision to leave is a curious one, assuming he was still in good standing in Eugene. According to the Roanoke Times, Virginia Tech isn’t sure when he’ll enroll or his eligibility status, but the school does know he won’t arrive as a graduate transfer. Since he played in just four games last season, he could count 2018 as a redshirt year, but he’d need a waiver to play in 2019. Absent that waiver, the earliest he’d see the field for Virginia Tech would be as a junior in 2020… which is also when he’d be in line to succeed Herbert as Oregon’s starter.

Virginia Tech’s quarterback room has become the epicenter of sorts of college football’s free agency era. Former Hokies starter Josh Jackson has left for Maryland, and just this week fellow Hokie quarterback Hendon Hooker announced he’ll return to Blacksburg after dipping his toes in the transfer portal.

Ryan Willis started for Virginia Tech as a junior in 2019, but the Hokie derby appears on for 2020 and beyond.

Nevada, New Mexico State reportedly set for home-and-home in 2021-22

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Nevada and New Mexico State will play a home-and-home series in 2021-22, according to documents obtained by FBSchedules.

The Wolf Pack and Aggies will revive their series on Oct. 9, 2021 in Reno, with a return trip set for Sept. 17, 2022 in Las Cruces.

The pair have played 15 times previously, first in 1992 and most recently in 2011. Nevada holds a 13-2 edge and has won the last three; both of New Mexico State’s wins came in Reno. The pair were both members of the WAC from 2005 through 2011.

Nevada still has one free space remaining in its 2021 non-conference schedule, most likely a home game against an FCS opponent. The Wolf Pack are already slated to visit California (Sept. 4) and Kansas State (Sept. 18) during that season. The 2022 trip to New Mexico State is the only game on that season’s schedule as of yet.

New Mexico State is clinging to life as an FBS independent after getting the boot from the Sun Belt in 2017. In addition to their trip to Reno, the Aggies have road games against San Diego State, New Mexico, San Jose State and Alabama lined up for 2021, while UTEP, Hawaii, Utah State and Massachusetts are set to trek to Las Cruces. Three games are still yet to be scheduled. In 2022, New Mexico State will face San Jose State and New Mexico at home while making visits to Minnesota, UTEP, Akron, Massachusetts, Missouri and Liberty with three dates still open.

After handing out multi-year deals, Texas puts assistants back on 1-year contracts

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The 2018 season was unquestionably a breakthrough year for Texas. While the Longhorns dropped four games and came short of the program’s first Big 12 championship since 2009, the team won 10 games and finished in the AP top-10 for the first time since ’09 and won a New Year’s Six bowl game for the first time since 2008. Coupled with the program’s first back-to-back top-3 recruiting classes ever, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, one might think Tom Herman‘s staff would enjoy a modicum of job security in the nomadic business of college football coaching.

One would be wrong.

As first reported by Orangebloods and later confirmed by the school to the Austin American-Statesman, Herman and AD Chris Del Conte have ended the practice of handing out multi-year contracts to assistant coaches.

The practice began at Texas in 2014 when former AD Steve Patterson hired Charlie Strong away from Louisville. Strong brought his full Cardinals staff and Patterson handed them all multi-year deals, which was part of an industry-wide movement as the competition for top coaching talent became even more intense. The practice continued when Texas hired Herman away from Houston in the winter of 2017, as Herman himself got a 5-year deal, coordinators Todd Orlando and Tim Beck got 3-year contracts and the rest of the staff received 2-year deals.

But now, heading into Year 3 of the Herman era, the position coaches’ contracts have expired and the coordinators are heading into the final year of their deals. And Herman and Del Conte like it that way.

In a statement to the American-Statesman, Del Conte said he and Herman aren’t unhappy with the assistant coaching staff, they just want to keep the carrot in front of their noses.

“We are absolutely ecstatic with the job coach Tom Herman and our coaching staff is doing for the University of Texas,” Del Conte told the paper. “This appointment letter is just a continuation of that effort.”

Herman has retained all nine of his assistants from his original staff — and seven of them were with him at Houston, with Beck and running backs coach Stan Drayton coming in from the outside — while hiring offensive line coach Herb Hand away from Auburn as his 10th assistant.

Texas A&M students overwhelmingly vote to reinstate Texas rivalry

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Texas A&M students on Friday overwhelmingly voted to revive the school’s dormant rivalry with Texas.

The referendum passed with 88.71 percent of the vote. A similar vote among the UT student body is planned for later this spring.

“The reason we’re doing this is because we feel responsible for the tradition and the spirit of A&M,” Chipper Adams, co-director of the A&M student group Reinstate the Rivalry, told A&M’s student paper The Battalion.

The issue momentarily gained momentum when both school presidents went on the record with the Austin American-Statesman last month saying they’d like to see the Longhorns and Aggies play again. However, A&M president Michael Young‘s true thoughts were revealed earlier this week when email correspondence with Aggie fans, irate over his on-the-record desire to play their arch-rivals, showed Young said the game’s revival was “unlikely.”

The UT-A&M series was the third-oldest FBS rivalry game during life, with 118 meetings between 1894 and 2011, but it has since been passed by Cincinnati-Miami (Ohio), Virginia-North Carolina, Auburn-Georgia, Oregon-Oregon State, Indiana-Purdue, Cal-Stanford and Army-Navy. If the two sides were to reach agreement to revive the game, it could not happen on an annual basis again until 2030 unless one or both schools are willing to cancel on-the-books games with the likes of Alabama, Ohio State (both future Texas opponents), Notre Dame and Miami (A&M).

In the meantime, there are two ways to view the 88.71 percent of the vote that the game’s rebirth drew. On the one hand, it’s impressive that the game drew that much support among a student body that was in elementary school the last time their school played Texas. On the other, a similar vote in the fall of 2017 drew 97 percent of the vote.

One has to figure the number of revivalists will only continue to shrink as one of college football’s oldest rivalries is now a stone sinking deeper and deeper in the river of time.