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Stanford’s Love, Wisconsin’s Taylor still Heisman betting favorites, but Tua Tagovailoa gaining ground

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Nothing has actually happened in college football since Tua Tagovailoa‘s 41-yard rainbow landed in Devonta Smith‘s hands to win Alabama the 2017 national title, but that hasn’t stopped fans from laying bets on the 2018 Heisman winner.

According to the updated odds released Monday by LVSuperBook, Stanford running back Bryce Love is still the favorite, trailed by Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor — same as the initial 2018 odds and the most recent update. Love opened at 7-to-1, moved to 5-to-1 last month and sits at 6-to-1 today. Taylor started at 8-to-1, increased to 7-to-1 last month and is now back at where he started, 8-to-1.

But those runners have been joined by the man who ended the 2017 season: Tagovailoa. After starting in fourth place (10-to-1) and remaining there in June, Tagovailoa is now level with Taylor at 8-to-1.

Tagovailoa’s ascent has come at the expense of Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, who started in third place at 9-to-1 and is now among a gaggle of fourth-place contenders at 15-to-1.

6-to-1: Love
8-to-1: Tagovailoa, Taylor
15-to-1: Georgia QB Jake Fromm, Oregon QB Justin Hebert, Penn State QB Trace McSorley, Tate
18-to-1: Alabama RB Damien Harris
20-to-1: Washington QB Jake Browning, Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins, West Virginia QB Will Grier, Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray, Michigan QB Shea Patterson, Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham, Georgia RB D’Andre Swift

Vegas — or, at least, those who give their money to Vegas — is banking on Heisman voters breaking form in a major way by riding with Love as the favorite. The last non-Alabama running back to win the Heisman was USC’s Reggie Bush in 2005, and the last one before that was Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in 1999. Meanwhile, no Alabama quarterback has ever won the Heisman.

Love is the nation’s leading returning rusher, carrying 263 times for 2,118 yards (8.05 a pop, the most for any player with at least 200 carries) and 19 touchdowns. Taylor ranks just behind Love with 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns on 299 totes. Tagovailoa completed 49-of-77 passes for 636 yards with 11 touchdowns against two interceptions while rushing 27 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns; though the sophomore appeared in nine games in 2017, he has yet to start one.

Minkah Fitzpatrick missed seeing title-winning play… because he was using the bathroom

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I can’t tell you how many times I have missed something of note because I was “indisposed” in a bathroom, most notably for the birth of one of my kids (true story). As it turns out, one member of the Alabama Crimson Tide can feel my pain.

In one of the wildest championship games ever, Alabama stormed back from a 13-0 halftime deficit to claim both a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia and the 2017 College Football Playoff title.  Facing a second and 26 on the first possession of overtime, true freshman Tua Tagovailoa found a streaking Devonta Smith from 41 yards out to give head coach Nick Saban his record-tying sixth national championship.

The walk-off touchdown in overtime was the first of its kind in the CFP/BCS era, and Minkah Fitzpatrick missed the historic moment.  Because he was using the toilet.

“I was going to the bathroom on the sideline (in a porta potty),” Fitzpatrick said during a radio interview Wednesday morning by way of al.com. “I could tell which side was the Alabama side. Alabama’s side was the left of our team and Georgia was to the right of the team. The left side started cheering I knew it was us and we got the first down or we scored a touchdown. It was the right side, it was Georgia and I would have to go out on the field and go back on defense. That’s how I knew what was going on.”

Hey, when you gotta go you gotta go… regardless of the stakes.

Nick Saban ties Bear Bryant for most national titles with his most unique championship yet

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Nick Saban has won a handful of national championships, but what better way to move into a tie for first place on the all-time leaderboard with the one and only Paul “Bear” Bryant than by cooking up the most unique national championship coaching job of his career to date.’

For the first time with the national championship on the line, Saban was going up against a former assistant coach. As the previous 11 matchups between teacher and student have gone, Saban once again came out on top of a former understudy, Georgia’s Kirby Smart. But boy oh boy did Saban have to try a few new things in order to get it. For the first time, Alabama was flustered and overmatched in a championship game. Even the last two years against Clemson were back-and-forth types of games, but Georgia was playing like a true home team hungry to end a national title drought in front of their home fans. Alabama’s offense was non-existent for the first 30 minutes, leading Saban to make a drastic call to change his quarterbacks at halftime and roll with a true freshman in Tua Tagovailoa.

Jalen Hurts had been Alabama’s starting quarterback for the past two seasons, but a rough first half performance led to Alabama digging a 13-0 hole. Saban needed a spark, so for the first time in a championship game, he made the switch in hopes of sparking something on offense. After a rough first drive, Tagovailoa came through in wild fashion. Tagovailoa connected on 14-of-24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 41-yard pass to Devonta Smith just one play after being taken down for a loss of 16 yards on a sack. Amazingly, Saban’s freshman quarterback looked like a freshman making a freshman mistake only to shrug it off and connect on a pass that will go down in Alabama’s storied history as one of the best in program history.

Saban is now tied with Bryant for the most national championships in the AP poll era with six apiece. Saban had already cemented his spot among college football’s hierarchy of coaches before Monday night, but for anyone who was still holding back on suggesting Saban belongs in the conversation for best coaches of all time, there is no more room to allow that conversation to be avoided. Saban is absolutely one of the best coaches of all time with six national titles to his name at two different schools (one at LSU, five at Alabama). But for anyone who does want to hold off on the Saban conversation, what more could you possibly need? Do you need Alabama to win another national title?

If you do, then watch out. Alabama was fueled Monday night by a freshman quarterback (Tagovailoa), a freshman running back (Najee Harris) and a freshman wide receiver (Smith). Alabama’s not going away anytime soon, because Saban has established a factory of college football talent in Tuscaloosa that is built to compete, have players step into big roles at any moment, and win.

Saban has won national titles with crippling defense. He has won a national title with an offense coming alive in a shootout. Now, Saban has won with freshmen leading the way. And ogh yeah, he also did it without winning a division title.

There will come a day when Saban decides enough is enough and he settles into retirement with time away from a sideline, but there does not appear to be an end in sight to the Saban dynasty in Tuscaloosa. Until Saban calls it a career, Alabama will continue to cement Saban’s legacy as the greatest coach of all time.

As No. 1 falls, No. 2 Alabama claims 31st straight regular season win in gut check at No. 16 Mississippi State

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The top three teams in college football all went on the road Saturday, all against top-16 teams. No. 1 Georgia already lost, and No. 3 Notre Dame is in the process of going down. No. 2 Alabama went to No. 16 Mississippi State and trailed much of the night, was nearly doubled up on time of possession, and it didn’t matter. A late touchdown pushed Alabama over Mississippi State for a 31-24 win, the program’s 31st consecutive regular season win.

Alabama nearly found itself down 28-17 in the fourth quarter and missed a would-be game-winning field goal with two minutes remaining, but absorbed and survived those blows to take over at its own 32 with 1:01 remaining and a full holster of timeouts. The drive appeared in danger in facing a 3rd-and-15 at its own 43 with 31 seconds remaining, but Jalen Hurts found Calvin Ridley for his third long catch-and-run of the night, this time for 31 yards. That set up a game-winning 26-yard snatch-and-dash to Devonta Smith with 25 ticks left.

The win pushed Alabama to 10-0 overall, 7-0 in the SEC and an unquestioned No. 1 in every poll that matters with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 SEC) utterly controlled the first quarter, but found itself locked in a 7-7 tie. The Bulldogs accepted the ball to open the game and clicked off 11 plays, moved the ball to the Alabama 41, killed the first half of the frame and then punted, pinning Alabama at its own 5.

The Bulldog defense forced a three-and-out, and its offense pushed its way down the field on a 6-play, 57-yard touchdown drive punctuated by an 11-yard Aeris Williams run.

On the ensuing possession, Mississippi State forced a 3rd-and-5, where a conversion would have given Mississippi State the ball with a 7-0 lead while Alabama’s offense ran a total of six plays over the first quarter. Instead, Hurts found Ridley for a 63-yard catch-and-run, and Hurts rushed in a 1-yard score two plays later.

The next two drives played out the same. Mississippi State strung together an 11-play, 73-yard drive again capped by a Williams run. And again Hurts and Ridley connected, this time for 61 yards. Ridley finished the game with five grabs for 171 yards, and Hurts hit 10-of-19 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers. Josh Jacobs rushed in from a yard out two plays later, tying the game at 14-14 with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

Alabama grabbed its first lead to open the second half, moving 63 yards in seven plays to set up a 30-yard Andy Pappanastos field goal. Mississippi State, however, picked up where it left off, reclaiming the lead on a 13-play, 69-yard drive that consumed more than 6:30 off the clock and concluded with a 2-yard Nick Fitzgerald rush. Fitzgerald completed 13-of-24 passes for 158 yards, and Mississippi State pounded out 49 rushing attempts, which gave the Bulldogs a near 18-minute edge in time of possession. 

The Bulldogs forced a three-and-out on Alabama’s next possession and had a chance to seize complete control of the game after moving to a 1st-and-10 at the Tide 11, but Fitzgerald’s 3rd-and-7 pass sailed incomplete. Jace Christmann knocked in a 25-yard field goal to give Mississippi State its third touchdown lead of the night, a 24-17 edge with 14:13 to play.

And for the third time of the night, Alabama erased Mississippi State’s touchdown lead with an immediate touchdown of its own. The Crimson Tide rumbled 82 yards in 10 plays, in the process converting a 4th-and-4 at the MSU 34 with a 13-yard Hurts rush. Damien Harris tied the game two plays after that with a 14-yard rush.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood helped Mississippi State begin its next drive at its own 40 and the Bulldogs eventually penetrated to the Alabama 42, but Dan Mullen elected to punt on 4th-and-3 with 6:30 to play. Logan Cooke‘s punt sailed into the end zone, and Alabama had the crease it needed to grab control of the game.

Three straight Bo Scarborough rushes pushed the ball to midfield, and a Harris run placed it at the Mississippi State 33. Mississippi State forced a 3rd-and-8, but a pass from Hurts to Ridley drew a pass interference flag, staking Alabama to a 1st-and-10 at the MSU 16 with 4:05 to go. However, three straight Hurts run lost yardage, and a 41-yard Pappanastos field goal clanged off the left upright. 

Mississippi State moved into Hail Mary territory on its last gasp drive. Fitzgerald’s first heave from the Alabama 49 was fell incomplete, but he was given another chance after a pass interference flag. His second chance, from the 34, sailed out of the end zone, sealing the win for Alabama.