Michael Crabtree

Associated Press

No. 2 Alabama extends streak of perfect neutral site openers by throttling Duke in Atlanta

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A year ago Alabama used a blitzkrieg attack to knock opponents out before the game even started. The Crimson Tide averaged an FBS-best 15.5 points in the first quarter, scoring at least one opening frame touchdown in all 15 games.

So far in 2019, they’re 0-for-1.

Alabama’s first three possessions ended in a three-and-out, a fumble and a missed field goal, but the end result was the same. The No. 2 Crimson Tide steamrolled a completely overmatched Duke team, 42-3 in Atlanta.

Tua Tagovailoa was his predictably brilliant self, hitting 26-of-31 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns before he was pulled in the third quarter. Biletnikoff award winner Jerry Jeudy made a great opening case to join Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon as the award’s only two-time winners by catching 10 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, while Jaylen Waddle added five grabs for 90 yards.

The Tide’s defense, retooled due to early entrants and key injuries, dominated Duke’s offense. Blue Devils quarterback Quentin Harris was 12-of-22 for 97 yards with two interceptions, and Duke rushed for just 107 yards on 3.3 yards a carry,.

If there was a weak spot for Alabama, it was its own running game. The Crimson Tide managed only 3.5 yards per carry on 42 rushes.

Alabama more or less invented the modern day neutral site opener; their 34-10 steamrolling of No. 9 Clemson in the inaugural Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game back in 2008 served as the unofficial beginning of the ongoing Nick Saban dynasty. Alabama has returned to Atlanta five times since, they’ve played in Dallas three times, trekked to Orlando once. Alabama is also scheduled to play USC in Dallas again in 2020, and they’ll return to Atlanta to play Miami in 2021, but after that they’re done. Starting with a trip to Texas in 2022, Alabama will return to playing home-and-homes with major non-conference opponents, and for good reason. These games stopped being interesting years ago.

Alabama moved to a perfect 10-0 in neutral site openers. Judging by the $20 tickets that could be had up until kickoff, the Alabama fan base has had its fill of Atlanta and Dallas in September and they’re ready for a new challenge.

The rest of us are, too.

Conflicting reports on Graham Harrell to UNC as offensive coordinator

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Now that he is settling back into his old stomping grounds in Chapel Hill, North Carolina head coach Mack Brown is looking to take things in a new direction for the Tar Heels when it comes to offense. According to a report from Inside Carolina, North Texas offensive coordinator Graham Harrell will be joining the Tar Heels to be Brown’s offensive coordinator. However, there is a conflicting report from Bruce Feldman of The Athletic saying Harrell will stay put at North Texas.

Although Harrell and Brown have no previous connection in the coaching game, the two are surely familiar with each other from their time in the Big 12. Harrell was the quarterback at Texas Tech for one of the biggest wins in school history against Brown’s No. 1 Texas Longhorns in 2007. Harrell’s pass to Michael Crabtree remains a highlight that is recognized as one of the top plays in college football in the 21st century and perhaps even farther back.

Harrell got his start in the coaching game with Oklahoma State as a quality control coach in 2009, but he spent the next few years trying to stick in the NFL with the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers. He returned to coaching a few years ago with his former Texas Tech head coach, Mike Leach, at Washington State in 2014. Harrell spent two seasons as Washington State’s wide receivers coach before getting the opportunity to be an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Texas in 2016.

If it does happen, the addition of Harrell would suggest Brown is open to allowing the offense to take to the air with an air-raid style. That’s the system Harrell has played and coached in, so he will surely be comfortable trying to implement such a system at UNC. How quickly that turns things around for UNC’s offense, which ranked 35th in the nation this season, remains to be seen. North Texas ranked 15th in total offense this season with an average of 472.8 yards per game. UNC’s offense did not tend to struggle to move the ball under Larry Fedora‘s style of offense, but Brown would hope Harrell can take the offense to a new gear with some success in the ACC.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalists are heavy on Big 12 receivers

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College football’s award season is coming soon, which means various individual awards are trimming down their massive watch lists to much smaller lists of semifinalists, and soon finalists. The Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, released its list of 11 semifinalists for its award this season. As expected, some of the nation’s leading receivers managed to make the cut midway through November.

The list of semifinalists includes some of the top receivers from the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, West Virginia’s David Sills V, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley are among the 11 semifinalists for the award. Wesley leads the nation in average receiving yards per game with 134.7 ypg. Wallace is not far behind with 128.2 ypg. Those two are among the seven receivers who have already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation with 1,479 receiving yards was also named a semifinalist for the award. Hawaii’s John Ursua, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns (15) also made the cut.

The SEC’s top two receivers, A.J. Brown of Ole Miss (SEC-leading 1,047 receiving yards) and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (SEC-leading 10 touchdowns and second-most receiving yards, 925 yards). Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry, among the Pac-12 leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, is joined by Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the Pac-12’s semifinalists.

Freshman star Rondale Moore of Purdue is the only player from a Big Ten school named a semifinalist for the award. Among the power conferences, the Big Ten has the longest drought of Biletnikoff Award winners with Braylon Edwards of Michigan being the last Big Ten player to win the award in 2004. The Big 12 has dominated the award over the past decade with seven Biletnikoff Award winners since 2007 including the last three years (Corey Coleman of Baylor in 2015, Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma in 2016, and James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017) and two back-to-back winners (Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech in 2007-2008 and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011).

This list of 11 semifinalists will be trimmed down to three finalists on Nov. 19. The 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be presented on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Presentation on ESPN.

Nation’s leading receivers named among 10 Biletnikoff Award semifinalists

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The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation has trimmed down the list of the nation’s top receivers to 10 semifinalists for this year’s Biletnikoff Award. The award doesn’t necessarily have to go to a wide receiver, but this year’s award will maintain that tradition with 10 semifinalists all playing the wide receiver position.

Among the semifinalists are the nation’s leading receiver, Colorado State’s Michael Gallup (1,298 yards), the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns, West Virginia’s David Sills V (18 touchdowns), and the nation’s leader in receptions per game, SMU’s Trey Quinn (9.6 receptions per game). The semifinalist list also includes key players on conference contenders like Deontay Burnett of USC and James Washington of Oklahoma State.

A Big 12 receiver has won the award each of the past two seasons, so that may be good news for one of the three semifinalists from the Big 12 this season. Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook won the award a year ago, preceded by Baylor’s Corey Coleman in 2015.A Big 12 player has won the award a total of six times since 2007, with Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon each winning the award twice.

2017 Biletnikoff Semifinalists

  • Darren Andrews, UCLA
  • A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
  • Deontay Burnett, USC
  • Keke Coutee, Texas Tech
  • Michael Gallup, Colorado State
  • Steve Ishmael, Syracuse
  • Anthony Miller, Memphis
  • Trey Quinn, SMU
  • David Sills, West Virginia
  • James Washington, Oklahoma State

Mike Leach stumping for QB Luke Falk for Heisman

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Coming out of this past weekend in college football no player appears to be getting a late-season Heisman Trophy push the way Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is. A win on the road against Baylor has catapulted Mayfield into the national spotlight as a legitimate Heisman contender late in the season, but Washington State head coach Mike Leach thinks there should be some consideration given to his quarterback in Pullman, Luke Falk.

Leach said his quarterback absolutely belongs in the Heisman mix, but concedes the Heisman Trophy is a bit of a political process that likely goes against Washington State’s candidate. Leach would know this from experience.

“Now (the Heisman) is just the bi-product of trying to speculate who’s the best player of the national championship team. … But failure to do that, then I think you ought to go back to the original definition which is who’s made the greatest contribution to his individual team,” said Leach. “If that’s the case then virtually everyone needs to vote for Luke Falk. And anybody that doesn’t needs to re-examine why their voting for the Heisman to begin with.”

Falk leads the nation in passing yards per game (406.7 ypg) and passing yards (4,067 yards). He is also among the nation’s leaders with 35 touchdown passes with just eight interceptions. It should be noted how often Washington State passes compared to other teams around the country. Falk has attempted at least 45 passes in all but one game this season, and in that one game he threw 41 passes. The high number of pass attempts tends to lead to big yardage and touchdown numbers, but Falk is also completing 70.3 percent of his passes, which is remarkable. Only four passers in the nation have at least 70 percent of their passes completed (coincidently, Mayfield is one of them; Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty are the others).

Leach has never coached a Heisman Trophy winner, but he has had a number of players receive Heisman votes including current Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury and former Red Raider receiver Michael Crabtree. Another former Texas Tech quarterback under Leach, Graham Harrell, finished fourth in the 2008 Heisman Trophy voting, tying the highest Heisman finish for a player from the school (Donny Anderson, 1965).

Helmet sticker to Coug Center.