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Tua-less Alabama blasts Arkansas, sets stage for No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown with LSU in Week 11

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LSU did its part earlier in the day.  A couple of hours later, Alabama did the same, setting the stage for the latest edition of The Game of the Century in college football.

Despite one of the best players in the sport out of uniform and prowling the sidelines in a walking boot, Alabama had little problem dispatching overmatched Arkansas, laying waste to the 31-points underdogs in a 48-7 woodshedding that was even more eviscerating than the final score would indicate. The Crimson Tide, which extended their record winning streak over unranked opponents to 89, scored on each of their first five possessions and six of their first seven; before the offense got the chance at an eighth offensive possession, Trevon Diggs returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown with less than 10 seconds left in the first half to give the Tide a 41-0 lead at halftime.

That was one of four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) in the first half for the Razorbacks, with the Tide scoring 24 of their 41 first-half points off those Hog miscues.

With Tua Tagovailoa sidelined because of a second surgery for a high-ankle sprain in less than a year, Mac Jones made the first start of his collegiate career.  Playing the role of game manager very effectively, the sophomore completed 16-of-20 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns… in the first half.  Playing just a few minutes into the third quarter, Jones would add another touchdown pass on a pair of completions to finish the day 18-22 for 235 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Jones was replaced early in the third quarter by the injured starter’s younger brother, true freshman Taulia Tagovailoa, who went 6-of-8 for 45 yards.

Offensively, the Razorbacks had few answers for a stifling Tide defense that held the visitors to 216 yards of offense — 107 passing, 106 rushing.  They averaged just 4.1 yards per pass and 3.5 yards per carry on the night.

Now that Alabama has, as expected, taken care of its Week 9 business, all eyes immediately turn to Nov. 9.

With both teams coming off a bye, No. 1 Alabama will play host to No. 2 LSU in Week 11 for what some view as essentially a play-in game for a spot in the College Football Playoff, although Oklahoma’s stunning loss earlier Saturday has certainly opened the door for two SEC teams to (again) earn semifinal berths.  Almost eight years ago to the day this latest renewal of the SEC West rivalry will be played, No. 1 LSU’s three three-run homers were enough to top No. 2 Alabama’s two three-run shots in what marked the first-ever 1-2 game in SEC history.

In between this latest 1-2 regular-season matchup and the last, though, the Crimson Tide has had the Bayou Bengals’ number.  To say the least.

  • 2018 — No. 1 Alabama 29, No. 4 LSU 0 in Baton Rouge
  • 2017 — No. 1 Alabama 24, No. 19 LSU 10 in Tuscaloosa
  • 2016 — No. 1 Alabama 10, No. 15 LSU 0 in Baton Rouge
  • 2015 — No. 7 Alabama 30, No. 4 LSU 16 in Tuscaloosa
  • 2014 — No. 4 Alabama 20, No. 14 LSU 13 in Baton Rouge
  • 2013 — No. 1 Alabama 38, No. 10 LSU 17 in Tuscaloosa
  • 2012 — No. 1 Alabama 21, No. 5 LSU 17 in Baton Rouge
  • 2012 — No. 2 Alabama 21, No. 1 LSU 0 in BCS Championship Game

A major factor in Alabama’s ability to extend that winning streak over LSU to nine straight is the health of the elder quarterbacking Tagovailoa, whose recovery from surgery now becomes the overriding storyline in the 14 days from now until the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff that second Saturday of November.  It’s believed that this high-ankle sprain is not as serious as the one he suffered last year, and it’s expected that the Heisman Trophy contender will be healthy enough to take the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Until he gets the all-clear from the football program’s medical team, though, expect near-daily Tua updates ahead of the latest playing of The Game of the Century.

Walk-on UCLA TE Greg Dulcich rewarded with scholarship on his birthday

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Courtesy of UCLA football, those weary of the misery that’s engulfing our country at the moment can find a reason to smile a little in this post.

Greg Dulcich would’ve been entering his third season as a walk-on for the UCLA football team. The key phrase there, of course, is “would’ve been.” Late last week, the Bruins announced that Dulcich has been placed on scholarship.

Arguably the best part? The announcement came on the redshirt sophomore’s birthday.

Dulcich received the news from UCLA football head coach Chip Kelly. Following the phone call, the in-self-isolation tight end celebrated with family.

From the Los Angeles Times:

When I hung up the phone,” Dulcich said, “it was pretty loud in here.”

He sprinted over to the dining room to give his mom a hug before his siblings converged for what Dulcich described as “a big ol’ family hug.” They celebrated over a birthday dinner of chili cheese dogs and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, the dessert made just the way Dulcich likes it.

Kelly made it clear to Dulcich that the scholarship was not a birthday present so much as a reward for all of his hard work. Dulcich caught a 20-yard touchdown pass last season against San Diego State and has made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, requiring at least a 3.0 grade-point average, during every quarter since his arrival.

“He was pretty adamant about making me feel like I earned it,” Dulcich said, “and that was really cool of him to put it like that.

The past two seasons, Dulcich has appeared in 14 games for the UCLA football team. Because he played in just three games during the 2018 season, he was able to take a redshirt and save a season of eligibility.

In that action, the California native has caught nine passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Eight of catches, 105 of the yards and the lone score came this past season.

Tulane shows off fresh new turf for football season

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We don’t know, officially, when college football will return to our lives. When it does, Tulane will have a brand new playing surface waiting to be broken in.

Tulane shared a look at the updated turf in Tulane’s Yulman Stadium, complete with the signature fighting green wave logo sitting at midfield. But the most noticeable update is a consistent green pattern as opposed to the alternating shades of green on the previous turf. The ends zones also have a fresh coat of paint, doing away with the white checkerboard pattern and replacing it with a light blue backdrop with “Green Wave” painted in green and outlined in white in each end zone.

The loss of the checkerboard end zones is slightly upsetting, but overall this is a worthy upgrade. Keeping the midfield logo was essential, and the blue end zones are certainly a pleasant upgrade.

Tulane is coming off a 7-6 season capped by a victory in the Armed Forces Bowl. After back-to-back winning seasons and bowl victories, Tulane and head coach Willie Fritz will hope to take advantage of their new turf and take the next step toward playing for the American Athletic Conference championship in 2020.

Despite New York shutting down construction, work on Syracuse’s Carrier Dome continues

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Like many states around the country, New York has issued a state-wide shutdown of all non-essential businesses. The updated order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has included a ban on non-essential construction projects, which is notable to Syracuse University. Just weeks after deflating the roof of the Carrier Dome for the final time as renovations were underway, whether or not the Carrier Dome classifies as essential construction or not is still being debated.

As noted by Syracuse.com, stadiums did not fall under the list of construction projects that could be considered essential. Essential projects have included those on roads, bridges, transit, utilities, hospitals and affordable housing, just to name a few. Clearly, the Carrier Dome does not fall under any of those categories. But, of course, that has not stopped some officials from stating the construction on the Carrier Dome should be allowed to continue.

The Dome project should be exempt,” Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said recently, according to Syracuse.com. “I already had a call with the state on this. Regardless on the Dome project, it has to be exempt because that big metal structure on the Dome isn’t secure. They’re still putting it up. We’re not going to stop construction and have 50 mph winds present another public health challenge. I called the state and just put everybody on notice on that. I talked to the contractor.”

Syracuse will be replacing the roof after a new railing support system is in place. The renovations to the Carrier Dome are priced at $118 million and the original plans were to have the project completed in full by 2022, although some parts of the renovations were likely to be completed in time for the 2020 college football season. Whether that will remain the case or not remains to be seen as the entire sports world and beyond has been put on ice amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Minnesota coach PJ Fleck has encouraging words for everyone during COVID-19 pandemic

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If there is one coach in college football that can be trusted to find the silver lining in times like these, it has to be Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck. Always one of the most uplifting and positive-thinking coaches sin the game, Fleck shared a message to everyone that may help you feel at least a little better about everything going on right now with the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on our lives.

In an interview last week with Pat Mcafee on his YouTube show, (The Pat McAfee Show), Fleck was asked what his message would be to people if they need a little bit of encouragement. Naturally, Fleck was up to the task;

“[There] are no problems, only situations, and from a situation creates opportunity,” Fleck said. “So for us, it’s about how we’re going to be able to respond to this, how are we going to be able to get back to this norm? everybody wants to keep chasing this norm. When’s normal coming back? I got news for you. Normal’s not coming back!”

Even as someone who is optimistic that things will return to “normal,” I can’t help but think Fleck is probably correct in this line of thought. He continued.

“Whatever your view of normal is, it’s not coming back. There are going to be ways and things that we implement that becomes the new norm,” Fleck explained. “But if you’re afraid of that, who says the new norm can’t be better? Why can’t our world be better? Why can’t our nation be better? Why can’t we continue to grow? Why can’t we be intentional with our intentions to make this a better world after we get through this? Who’s to say it has to be worse?”

“We all have a role in this, and we can all row the boat together,” Fleck said, working in his own personal motto that has worked so well for him over the years for good measure. “We can all look at our problems, look at them as situations and create these opportunities that make this world better. Here’s the one thing. We all affect this. every single one of us have an impact of how we actually change the future of this nation.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel a little better moving forward. Maybe we need to hear from Fleck every day until things do return to whatever the newly established “normal” shall be.

Here is the video clip of Fleck’s interview, via McAfee’s Twitter account;