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Reports: Michigan hiring Alabama coach Josh Gattis as new offensive coordinator

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It appears Nick Saban will be undergoing yet another extensive staff overhaul following the national title game for the second year in a row.

Per The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, Michigan is set to hire away Alabama co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Josh Gattis. He is expected to be the Wolverines’ next offensive coordinator and likely will be calling plays, something he didn’t do with the Crimson Tide this past season.

The move only adds to the fairly extensive staff changes in both Tuscaloosa and Ann Arbor. Gattis’ fellow co-coordinator Mike Locksley was hired as the head coach at Maryland and Tide offensive line coach Brent Key just took a position at his alma mater of Georgia Tech earlier on Thursday. UM’s wide receivers coach Jim McElwain departed for the head coaching gig at Central Michigan in December and was one of a number of assists to leave Big Blue.

There’s little questioning the impact that Gattis had in his short stint with Alabama though, mentoring Jerry Jeudy to the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver as well as developing Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs III, Irv Smith Jr. and several others. Prior to heading South, he spent four years at Penn State and played a big role in recruiting and coaching a handful of NFL guys in Happy Valley.

Gattis will join Pep Hamilton (passing game coordinator/QBs), Jay Harbaugh (running backs), Sherrone Moore (tight ends) and Ed Warinner (offensive line) on Jim Harbaugh’s offensive staff.

Alabama favored over Clemson for College Football Playoff National Championship

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Alabama faces a line that is smaller than its lowest winning margin of the season in its latest January rematch with Clemson. The Crimson Tide, led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, are five-point favorites on the college football odds against the Clemson Tigers with a 58.5-point total for Monday’s title game at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The contest at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California is the fourth consecutive postseason meeting between the teams. In the Nick Saban era, Alabama is 5-1 straight-up and 3-2-1 against the spread as a favorite of 7.0 or fewer points in postseason games, with the 2016 Tigers accounting for that one outright defeat.

Clemson has gone 14-0 SU and 8-6 ATS against a schedule rated as less difficult than Alabama’s docket of defeated foes. Offensively, freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence does not seem likely to be intimidated by the big stage, and the Tigers’ third-ranked offense stands a good chance of putting up some points against Alabama, which allowed 34 against the Oklahoma Sooners’ top-ranked attack in the Orange Bowl on December 29.

A bigger unknown is whether Clemson has a stout enough offensive line to negate nosetackle Quinnen Williams and the Crimson Tide’s interior push. The Tigers’ rushing game was a non-factor against Alabama in the 2017 playoff game, but leading rusher Travis Etienne is the type of edge runner that often poses difficulty for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama is also 14-0 SU and 8-6 ATS, with Tagovailoa serving as the linchpin of a No. 4-ranked offense that is also second only to Oklahoma in scoring. Clemson’s defense is also the fourth-best in the country statistically, and the Tigers, first in the country with 52 sacks, will likely rely on a four-man pass rush led by defensive tackle Christian Wilkins to slow down Alabama, since Tagovailoa is excellent when teams blitz with five or more defenders.

Thanks to myriad major touchdown threats such as wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith, Alabama averages a nation-leading 11.3 yards per pass. Clemson allows 6.3 yards per pass, but did not face a team with a pro-style offense that ranked in the top 20 in the country in yards per throw.

The total has gone UNDER at online sports betting sites in seven of Alabama’s last 10 games when it was favored by 7.0 or fewer points. However, that sample spans eight seasons. The total has gone OVER in nine of Alabama’s last 14 games, with an average combined score of 63.93 points. Five of Clemson’s 14 games finished with 60 or more total points.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Alabama advances to another title rematch vs. Clemson with Orange Bowl defeat of Oklahoma

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No. 1 Alabama began its run to a second straight national championship and its sixth of the Nick Saban era exactly where it left off from last year’s title game — with a long throw from Tua Tagovailoa to Devonta Smith, the same players who threw and caught the astonishing rainbow to beat Georgia last January. Damien Harris hammered in a 1-yard touchdown run six plays later, and the Crimson Tide was officially off to the races.

Alabama’s Heisman runner-up returned to the ultra-efficient form that made him the favorite for most of the season, while Quinnen Williams and company harassed Heisman winner Kyler Murray unlike anything he has ever seen, allowing the Crimson Tide to race to a 28-0 lead just 17 minutes into Saturday night’s Capital One Orange Bowl.

Murray and company eventually got their sea legs under them, but by then it was too little, too late. With a 45-34 victory over the No. 4 Sooners, Alabama advanced to yet another national championship game on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Tide will once again meet Clemson, a 30-3 winner over Notre Dame earlier today, for the fourth straight season, and the third time in the College Football Playoff National Championship. It will be Alabama’s seventh national championship appearance in the past 10 seasons.

Alabama scored touchdowns on its first four possessions, a string of offensive perfection that saw the Tide rack up 239 yards on 25 plays. Tagovailoa pushed Alabama up 14-0 with a 10-yard dime to Henry Ruggs III, but the emblematic score came on a 27-yard toss to Josh Jacobs on a play that was designed as a dump off but became a thundering shrine to Alabama’s physical dominance over its crimson counterpart when the Tide running back collided with Oklahoma safety Robert Barnes at the goal line, forcing him to be helped off the field.

Tagovailoa finished the game 24-of-27 (all three incompletions were officially scored as drops) for 318 yards and four touchdowns, while Jacobs totaled 158 yards and a touchdown on 19 touches.

Meanwhile, Murray saw a level of pressure on his first two drop backs that he has never seen before in his life. After a 3-yard keeper to open the game, he was sacked by Anfernee Jennings on second down, then sacked again by Christian Miller on third down.

Oklahoma’s first three possessions ended in punts; by that point, Alabama held a 21-0 lead on the score board and a 191-0 edge in total yards.

Murray and company joined the game after that. A 4-play, 75-yard touchdown drive put the Sooners on the board at the 11:48 mark of the second quarter, and Oklahoma finished the game with an Oklahoma-like 471 yards of total offense, the most gained by an Alabama opponent this season.

Murray finished the game 19-of-37 passing for 308 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 17 times for 109 yards and another score, showcasing a mettle that this season has not asked him to show while at the same time never really pulling Oklahoma back in the game. After beginning the game by falling in a 28-point hole, OU pulled back within 11 at three different points but could get no closer.

After a 49-yard Murray pass to Charleston Rambo at the 3:03 mark of the third quarter pulled Oklahoma within 31-20, Alabama went 75 yards in nine plays and just under five minutes to go to inch back ahead at 38-20. When Murray hit CeeDee Lamb for a 10-yard score to pull his team within 38-27 at the 8:31 mark of the fourth quarter, Alabama went 46 yards in five plays, pushing its lead to 45-27 on a 13-yard strike from Tua to Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy at the 6:08 mark of the fourth quarter.

And when Murray scampered in for an 8-yard touchdown run at the 4:23 mark, Alabama successfully ran out the remaining 263 seconds to advance to yet another national championship game.

Alabama rolling over Oklahoma in Orange Bowl

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Alabama’s offense has played to its potential, as expected. But it was the Crimson Tide defense, angry after a month of hype for their counterparts, that dominated the first half of Saturday night’s Orange Bowl, allowing No. 1 Alabama to jump out to a 28-0 edge en route to a commanding 31-10 halftime lead over No. 4 Oklahoma.

Oklahoma won the toss and chose to put its defense on the field first, and Alabama immediately punished them for it when Tua Tagovailoa hit Devonta Smith — the same connection that won last season’s national championship — for a 50-yard gain. Damien Harris converted a 3rd-and-5 with a 15-yard reception, putting the ball at the OU 5-yard line. He then appeared to fumble the ball away at the 1, but the play was overturned upon review and he barreled in for a touchdown on the next snap. It marked the 41st time in 48 tries an Oklahoma opponent found pay dirt on a red zone penetration, the worst ratio in the country.

Trailing 7-0, Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma offense took the field for the first time — and went three-and-out. After a 3-yard keeper on first down, Murray was sacked by Anfernee Jennings on second down and engulfed by Christian Miller on third.

After Austin Seibert‘s punt — a short one, just 35 yards — Alabama knifed 45 yards in seven plays, with Tua completions of nine, 13 and 11 yards, setting up a 10-yard scoring lob to Henry Ruggs III on third-and-goal and putting Oklahoma in the danger zone at 14-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.

Oklahoma managed to achieve a first down on its second possession, but a 5-yard loss by Trey Sermon and two incompletions to Marquise Brown forced another Seibert punt. Tua hit Jerry Jeudy for a 40-yard bomb two plays later and all of a sudden the Tide were in the OU red zone again. After two Jalen Hurts touches put the ball at the 1, Harris powered in for his second score, putting Alabama up 21-0 at the 1:33 mark of the first quarter.

To that point, Alabama wasn’t just shutting Oklahoma out on the scoreboard. The Crimson Tide led in total yardage 191-0.

Oklahoma pushed into positive yardage on its third possession but, sensing any shot at a comeback hung in the balance — with 10 seconds to play in the first quarter, mind you — Lincoln Riley decided to go for a 4th-and-4 from his own 48. Murray’s pass was incomplete.

Taking over in Sooners territory, Alabama needed only five plays to push its lead to 28-0. On a 3rd-and-6 from the OU 27, Tagovailoa hit a wide-open Josh Jacobs on a swing route, who ran untouched until he demolished Sooners safety Robert Barnes at the goal line, who had to be helped off the field.

Down four touchdowns, Oklahoma’s offense finally got off the mat. Keyed by a 39-yard catch-and-run completion to fullback Carson Meier, Murray pushed the ball to the Alabama 2 with a 32-yard strike to CeeDee Lamb, allowing Sermon to put the Sooners on the board at the 11:48 mark of the second quarter.

Sparked by that score, Oklahoma’s defense forced its first stop — a three-and-out, no less — allowing the Sooners to take over at midfield, but Murray threw incomplete for Grant Calcaterra in the end zone on a 3rd-and-5 from the 8, forcing a 26-yard Seibert field goal and pulling OU within 28-10 at the exact midpoint of the second quarter.

Alabama leaned on Oklahoma’s forgiving run defense on the ensuing drive, consuming 7:01 of the remaining 7:30, but a false start prevented Nick Saban from going for a 4th-and-1 from the OU 15, forcing a 38-yard Joseph Bulovas field goal.

In a pair of stats that tell the story, Murray was 6-of-13 for 122 yards, while his Heisman runner-up counterpart was 15-of-17 for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Murray led all runners with 46 yards on nine carries, barely edging out Jacobs’ nine carries for 45 yards, though Jacobs also caught three passes for 47 yards and a thundering touchdown.

Oklahoma will receive to open the second half.

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.