Jalen Hurts

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Jalen Hurts pumped to show off new Oklahoma uniform

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Oklahoma’s newest quarterback is in Norman and he’s ready to get started with his new team. Jalen Hurts, the former starting quarterback at Alabama, took to his Twitter account to show off his new look in an Oklahoma uniform. He sure seemed excited to share the image.

Sporting a fresh cut and showing off his new uniform number (he wore No. 2 at Alabama), Hurts now looks to step into an offensive system that has produced two straight Heisman Trophy winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in the past two seasons. At the same time, Hurts will also attempt to guide Oklahoma to another Big 12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff, where the Sooners have gone 0-2 the last two seasons and where Hurts could potentially go head-to-head against his former teammates at Alabama, including quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

It’s all fun to sit back and think about this time of the year, but Hurts is merely focused on ending his college career on a high note with the Sooners.

From 2008 season opener to national title dramatics, Alabama and Clemson were made for national title stage

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Alabama and Clemson will meet in the College Football Playoff national championship game Monday night in Santa Clara in what will be the fourth straight meeting in the postseason between the ACC and SEC champions and the third in the last four seasons to determine the national champion. For two programs who met just 13 times from 1904 through 1975, the Tigers and Crimson Tide have developed one of the most unique rivalries in the sport, and what is happening between Alabama and Clemson may be unprecedented. It has become college football’s equivalent to Lakers-Celtics in that these two programs are each individually so dominant but they have done so at a time when there is an equal force waiting to line up on the other side of the field at the end of the year to determine who is truly No. 1.

It is somewhat fitting that the rise of both of these programs can be traced back to the 2008 season when these two schools squared off in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Nick Saban was in his second season coaching the Crimson Tide after going a mediocre 7-6 in his first season at Alabama after leaving the Miami Dolphins. His Tide started the year No. 24 in the AP Top 25 but figured to have a stuff challenge on their hands with No. 9 Clemson, who started the season with Tommy Bowden at the helm. Little did anyone truly expect at the time, but this one game should have been a preview of things to come. Alabama jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter in Atlanta with a pair of field goals and a short touchdown run by John Parker Wilson. Alabama extended their lead to 23-3 as the game reached halftime and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller opened the second half with a 96-yard touchdown to provide a much-needed spark for Clemson. But Alabama shut the Tigers down from there and tacked on a Julio Jones touchdown and went on to win 34-10.

ATLANTA – AUGUST 30: Quarterback John Parker Wilson #14 of the Alabama Crimson Tide scrambles and avoids a tackle attempt by cornerback Chris Chancellor #38 of the Clemson Tigers at the Georgia Dome on August 30, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. Alabama defeated Clemson 34-10. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Alabama would win their next 11 games to finish off an undefeated regular season that included a 41-30 victory at No. 3 Georgia and a 27-21 win at No. 15 LSU. But the Tide lost a No. 1 vs. No. 2 SEC title game against Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators, coached by none other than Urban Meyer, and Alabama was taken down in the Sugar Bowl by Utah. While Alabama was doing that, Clemson made a notable change at head coach in the middle of the season with Bowden giving way to assistant coach Dabo Swinney. Swinney may not have held on to the role if not for a regular season victory against rival South Carolina, but it is a good thing he did.

Over the course of the next six seasons, Saban had continued to keep Alabama as a national title contender, winning three BCS National Championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Swinney was slowly but surely building his own juggernaut, although the return of Florida State as a national power under Jimbo Fisher was standing in the way of the ultimate prize. But all of that changed beginning in 2015. Clemson started the season No. 12 in the AP Top 25 and methodically moved their way up the ranking. But in mid-November, Clemson took over the top ranking in the AP poll and never looked back en route to their first College Football Playoff. There was just one final hurdle that Deshaun Watson and company just could not clear.

It was Alabama.

Jan. 11, 2016: No. 2 Alabama 45, No. 1 Clemson 40

The second College Football Playoff National Championship Game was one for the ages. Alabama was the battle-tested national title contending program that had been for years, but Clemson was looking to prove they finally belonged on the big stage after years of working to get here. And although Clemson came up on the short end of the final score, they proved they were not a fluke that was about to go away.

The seeds of the first playoff battle between Alabama and Clemson were supposed to be led by defense, but this was an offensive showcase from the start. A 50-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry offered an early suggestion that maybe Clemson wasn’t ready for this moment, but Hunter Renfrow caught two touchdown passes from Deshaun Watson before the end of the first quarter to put that idea to rest. Clemson was there to take care of business. Tied at 14-14 at halftime, a wild game was about to burst wide open. O.J. Howard hauled in a 53-yard pass from Jake Coker early in the third quarter but Clemson struck back to take a 24-21 lead into the fourth quarter, much to the joy of then Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

GLENDALE, AZ – JANUARY 11: O.J. Howard #88 of the Alabama Crimson Tide catches a pass to run 53 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Clemson Tigers during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Alabama took the lead once again with a long pass to Howard, this time a 51-yard play with 9:45 to play. Clemson made it a four-point game with a field goal but Kenyan Drake responded with a 95-yard touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff to make it 38-27 midway through the fourth quarter. The Tigers cut the lead to five points with another Watson touchdown pass with 4:40 to play, but Alabama’s offense would not yield with another touchdown run by Henry with 1:07 to play for a 45-33 lead. Watson added one more late touchdown pass to finish off an otherwise brilliant performance for Clemson with 405 passing yards and four touchdowns and 73 rushing yards against the Tide, but the loss would merely serve as motivation for unfinished business as Alabama celebrated their first national championship in the young playoff era. The win was a bit of unfinished business for Alabama too as they were upset in the semifinal the previous season by eventual national champion Ohio State.

Jan. 9, 2017: No. 2 Clemson 35, No. 1 Alabama 31

The 2016 season was given a landscape that looked like it would be a season-long journey to get to the rematch between Alabama and Clemson. The Tide were given a preseason No. 1 ranking in the AP top 25 and the Tide never relinquished that ranking all year. Clemson, despite being the defending national champions and having Watson back at quarterback, started the year at No. 2 and floated within the top five all season long and headed to the playoff ranked No. 3 in the AP poll. Both teams easily took care of their semifinal opponents in the College Football Playoff, with Clemson blanking Ohio State 31-0 and Alabama dispatching of Washington 24-7 to set the stage for the rare college football national championship game rematch. Once again, we were in for a show.

Alabama took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on the strength of a second touchdown run by running back Bo Scarbrough, but a touchdown run by Watson provided a much-needed spark for Clemson midway through the second quarter against a stingy Alabama defensive presence. With Alabama leading the Tigers 17-7 midway through the third quarter, Watson connected with Renfrow to bring Clemson to within three points. But later in the third quarter, a long pass play to Howard would bring up some horrible flashbacks to a season ago. A 68-yard pass to Howard from Jalen Hurts gave Alabama a 24-14 lead late in the third quarter. But Clemson would not give in. The Tigers cut into the lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass from Watson to Mike Williams and nearly 10 minutes later, Clemson had their first lead of the game when Wayne Gallman scored a short touchdown run. Down for the first time all game, Hurts responded and gave Alabama the lead with his own 30-yard touchdown run with 2:07 to play.

Too much time.

Clemson executed a two-minute drive to perfection and capped the drive and the game with a Watson touchdown pass to Renfrow from two yards out with one second to play. A field goal would have tied the game, but Watson delivered the long-awaited national championship to Clemson in arguably as dramatic fashion as Vince Young did for Texas against USC in the Rose Bowl. For the second year in a row, Alabama-Clemson delivered the dramatics with flair, this one more enticing than the previous.

Jan. 1, 2018: No. 4 Alabama 24, No. 1 Clemson 6

The third meeting in the playoff era between Alabama and Clemson was not at all close to living up to the high bar the previous two meetings had set. For starters, the third meeting took place in the semifinal round instead of the national championship. Watson had moved on to the NFL, with Kelly Bryant stepping in as the new starter for the Tigers. Clemson was still incredibly good, but Bryant was no magician like Watson. Alabama had suffered just one loss all season long, the regular season finale against Auburn that knocked Alabama out of the SEC Championship Game picture and left Alabama hoping the selection committee would allow them an opportunity to wiggle into the playoff. They did, placing Alabama as the fourth seed, unfortunately for Clemson.

Just as Ohio State had done to them in the first year of the playoff, Alabama used the four-seed to take advantage of their playoff opportunity by dominating Clemson defensively. The Tigers managed just six points in the Sugar Bowl semifinal, both by way of field goals in the second and third quarters. Alabama took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and that was all they needed. There would be no magical fourth quarter for the ages and the highlight reels this time. Neither team scored a point in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the previous two meetings led to the coaching staffs of both programs to tighten things up in the fourth quarter. Or, perhaps, Clemson just did not have the same firepower on offense they needed to make a game of it this time.

Alabama would go on to top SEC champion Georgia in overtime in the national championship game in Atlanta the following week, with Tua Tagovailoa coming to the rescue after a rough showing by Hurts. Tagovailoa would keep the job for the 2018 season as Alabama once again has strung together a No. 1 ranking from the start of the season to the national title game. Clemson, who started the season No. 2 and made their own quarterback change with the departure of Bryant and the rise of freshman Trevor Lawrence, now has the offense that may be needed.

Will this year’s fourth consecutive meeting between Alabama and Clemson go down in the memory banks of college football fans as an all-time classic like the 2017 meeting? We’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa ‘full go’ for Orange Bowl semifinal vs. Oklahoma

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As Alabama stepped off the plane in Miami, all eyes were on how the quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa was moving. Tagovailoa, who has been recovering from an ankle injury that took him out of the SEC Championship Game, appears to be optimistic about his status for the Orange Bowl, a College Football Playoff semifinal against Big 12 champion Oklahoma.

At this point, we’re doing a lot better,” Tagovailoa said, according to The Miami Herald. “I got to move [Sunday]. I got to get a feel off of it before we come out [Monday] with practice. It feels good.”

“I think this week I will be over it,” Tagovailoa said, according to Al.com.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban also stated Tagovailoa has been able to get in the reps he’s needed to prior to departing for Miami. Saban will look forward to seeing how Tagovailoa continues to move after having a couple of days off between bowl practices.

It seems as though all systems are go for Tagovailoa, which should be good news for Alabama fans. Even though the season ended on a slight downward trend for Tagovailoa, with his worst game of the season coming against Georgia in the SEC Champiosnhip Game, having Tagovailoa at as close to full strength as possible is a positive development for Alabama. Of course, there should be a good amount of confidence in Alabama’s offense even if Tagovailoa is not able to be at full strength or needs a break because Jalen Hurts will be ready to step in and guide the offense if needed, just as he did in the SEC Championship Game victory.

Nick Saban provides update on Tua Tagovailoa

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A day after Alabama celebrated a rally to defeat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, the focus was one two things; the College Football Playoff rankings and the status of starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. After being handed the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, Alabama head coach Nick Saban provided an update on the status of the Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback.

In an interview with ESPN, Saban said Tagovailoa had an MRI that revealed a high ankle sprain. The injury is expected to keep Tagovailoa out of practice for the next two weeks, which won’t cost him any playing time but will prevent him from getting reps on a practice field as the Crimson Tide prepare to face Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal.

The two-week period should see Tagovailoa ready to return to action against the big 12 champions in a game where the offense will be the story of the game. Of course, if Tagovailoa is not ready to play for any reason, that will lead Saban to turn to Jalen Hurts, who lost the starting job to Tagovailoa but came in off the sideline in the SEC Championship Game to lead the Crimson Tide past Georgia.

Alabama will face Oklahoma on Dec. 29 in the Orange Bowl.

Nick Saban does not like the new redshirt rule

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban has been one of the more progressive minds in the sport over the years, but he is not exactly on board with the new redshirt rule in college football this season.

I do think that this is not a good rule,” Saban said of the redshirt rule, according to Yahoo! Sports. “The timing of guys being able to say ‘I want to get redshirted’ is not good — the fourth or fifth or sixth game of the season after they’ve played three or four games.”

Saban went on to suggest a player choosing to transfer after four games is unfair to the teammates that player is then leaving behind.

“We gave them a scholarship. I don’t really think it’s fair to their teammates to have the option to not continue to play,” Saban explained. “I think that’s not a good thing. I think the intent of the rule was so you can play a young player, a freshman player, and enhance his development. This has turned into something that I think is less than what we all desired it to be.”

The new redshirt rule allows a player to appear in up to four games without sacrificing a year of eligibility, as long as that player has a redshirt year to use. The transfer rule was implemented with the idea of providing some more roster flexibility throughout the season to get younger players some playing time and provide a possible buffer to fill in depth concerns that arise due to injuries as the season goes along. But one of the other impacts the rule is having is becoming more visible in that players can now appear in four games and then decide whether or not they want to transfer to another program for a shot at a better position on the field.

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant made his decision to transfer out of the program last week, shortly after Dabo Swinney had decided to give the starting job to freshman Trevor Lawrence. Bryant’s decision to leave Clemson in the middle of the season may become the new norm under the redshirt rule, which is what is what is concerning Saban and perhaps other coaches around the country.

The reason this is relevant at Alabama is that Jalen Hurts just played in his fifth game for Alabama, thus burning his year of eligibility this season despite Tua Tagovailoa being the team’s starter. Saban said he was not going to be concerned about the redshirt rule as he went through this season, and perhaps that was evidenced by the decision to play Hurts as often as he has in games that were lopsided matchups favoring Alabama.