Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

7 01 2013

I don’t know what was more evident Monday night: the establishment of sport’s first legitimate dynasty since the 2001-2004 New England Patriots or Nick Saban proving to be one of the all-time best college football coaches. Or Brent Musburger’s newfound creepy attitude toward young women.

The 2013 BCS National Championship game was supposed to be good. No. 1 in the nation against No. 2. Everything was set for a night of competitive and high-quality football. One team had a fantastic defensive line that only gave up two rushing touchdowns prior to this game while the other had an offensive line consisting of mammoths for men, who have five projected to make it to the NFL. The football stars had come out to play.

But just as the nation saw last year, one team ended up obliterating their opponent, leading to the increasing necessity for a playoff system.

NCAA Football: BCS National Championship-Alabama vs Notre Dame

The Alabama Crimson Tide destroyed the Notre Dame Fighting (that was tough to type…) Irish 42-14 as the SEC claimed its seventh straight national championship. Alabama now becomes the first school in NCAA history to win back-to-back BCS titles as they also win their third national championship in four years.

From the moment of the opening kickoff to the moment the red and white confetti was released, this was Alabama’s night. The disparity in toughness of schedule and toughness of teams became transparent when Heisman candidate Manti Te’o, who had only missed two tackles all season, missed tackle after tackle after tackle. After tackle. His draft stock dropped faster than Matt Barkley’s did this season with each successive failed attempt. Te’o and his Irish team were utterly outmatched on college football’s biggest stage.

With the running game being completely shut down (32 total rushing yards), the Irish offense was nothing short of stagnant. No progress could be made at any point in this matchup. The 14 points the Irish put on the scoreboard came in the second half when the game was already out of hand. Once this game became a 21-0 deficit for Notre Dame four seconds into the second quarter, it became clear those men in the gold helmets didn’t have enough offensive weapons to compete with an SEC powerhouse.

Alabama quarterback McCarron throws a pass against Notre Dame during the third quarter of their NCAA National Championship college football game in MiamiOn the other end of the field, the Alabama front seven pushed their way to a second straight national championship as a new “Big 3” was created. AJ McCarron threw for 264 yards and four touchdowns, Amari Cooper received 105 of these yards and collected a pair of touchdowns, and Eddie Lacy balanced this attack with his 140 big-time rushing yards. For a team known for their defense, the offense showcased its lethal ways Monday night.

To go along with a potent offense, the renowned defense lived up to their name as these men continued to go about their business. Going back to last year’s title game, it took nearly 101 minutes for someone to find a way to put up some points against these Rolling Tide. Even though this phrase is often thrown around to describe some of the best defenses out there, the Alabama D was truly too big for Notre Dame to handle. At times, it looked as if this elite college program was squaring off against a North Indiana High School. The question will be raised – once again – if this is the best defense college football has ever seen. And they deserve this debate.

Speaking of the best college football has ever seen, Nick Saban has put himself right up there with the best. No matter if you like his blunt attitude with the media, the man knows how to win football and win it on the biggest stage. Even Bear Bryant did not win to this degree at such a fast pace so early on in his coaching career. This sustained level of greatness is unheard of with his five total crowns, three titles in four years, and back-to-back BCS championships – something no one has ever seen before.

No matter who gets the majority of the credit, the Alabama Crimson Tide football program has cemented itself as one of the few college football dynasties we have ever seen. This team has shuffled through different quarterbacks, running backs and every other position imaginable during their dominant run but one thing has remained constant – the will to win. To add to their undying success, they unquestionably play in the country’s most competitive conference, going up against the likes of LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and South Carolina.They play the best and have been the best for three of the past four years. That is a true dynasty.

Even though this point shouldn’t have a counterargument, their most recent blowout victory reminds the nation that the playoff system just around the corner can’t come soon enough. Notre Dame beat four ranked teams this year and three of these teams turned out to be disappointments. Michigan State barely squeezed into a bowl game, Michigan turned out to be anything but what their preseason No. 8 ranking reflected and Oklahoma had an off year based on Bob Stoops’ standards. Even if you consider Stanford a quality win, that is still only a single game to show off. Alabama had five.

Yes, Notre Dame was undefeated, which can’t go unnoticed, but they also needed three overtimes to beat Pittsburgh… Pittsburgh. With no defining victory and very few challenges during the regular season, who’s to say that half of the SEC couldn’t have taken down those Irish? It may not be the perfect system, but the upcoming college football playoffs will better protect the integrity of the NCAA while giving the championship game a better chance of being like a championship game – the two top teams playing to see who is better.

NCAA Football: BCS National Championship-Alabama vs Notre Dame

So, until that playoff system comes into form to challenge Alabama, we can only admire a football program and a football coach that have once again proven to be the best in the nation.

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College Football Top 10 Preview 2012

27 08 2012

 

#1 USC – The Trojans seem to be picking up where they left off a couple of years ago before the NCAA hit them with sanctions. QB Matt Barkley is a major Heisman contender (if not the very early front-runner), and head Coach Lane Kiffin seems to be quickly bringing this team back into elite status. With a relatively weak PAC-12 Conference, the biggest obstacle in their path right now is a trip to Eugene on November 3rd to play the Ducks. Can this team handle the pressure that comes along with being #1?

#2 Alabama – The reigning national champion lost a lot of players to the NFL. The offense and defense are going to have a lot of new faces, but Coach Nick Saban is one of the best out there, and he won’t expect any less than the best even from his younger players. The Crimson Tide have an early test this Saturday as they travel to Arlington, TX to meet Michigan in a key non-conference matchup.

#3 LSU – The Tigers have a lot of talent returning this year, and every one of those players is being motivated by their 21-0 embarrassment in last year’s national championship game. LSU will have a dominant defense, but the question is whether or not their offense can generate anything against the solid defenses of the SEC. As good as they were last year, the Tigers were only able to score a total of 9 points against Alabama in the two times they matched up against their divisional rival. November 3rd is lurking.

#4 Oklahoma – With Robert Griffin III, Justin Blackmon, and Brandon Weedon all off to the NFL, the Big XII is up for the taking, and Bob Stoops should be in a prime position to seize this opportunity. QB Landry Jones has decided to play one more year for the Sooners, and Mike Stoops has rejoined his brother as defensive coordinator. Even with all the great teams that have come through Oklahoma over the past decade, the fans in Norman are still looking for their first title since 2000.

#5 Oregon – The Ducks are returning 14 starters from last year’s Rose Bowl winning team. LaMichael James has moved on, but there is still more than enough firepower on that team to give any opposing defensive coordinator nightmares. Even if no one will want to admit it, every coach and player on that team is looking ahead to November 3rd when the Trojans come to town.

#6 Georgia – Last year’s SEC East champions look ready to continue the momentum they began last season. With neither LSU nor Alabama on their schedule this year, the Bulldogs look to be in a wonderful position to make a legitimate run this year. A trip to South Carolina on October 6th currently appears to be their biggest challenge, so if they can pass that test, expect those Dogs to bark up some noise.

#7 Florida St. – Year after year, Bobby Bowden consistently made FSU one the elite football programs in the country. Even after he left, those expectations still remained, and Jimbo Fisher has done his best to get his team to rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, over the past two seasons, the Seminoles haven’t been able to prove themselves when it matters. This year’s squad is full of talent, but we’ll have to see if they are finally ready to make that big step.

#8 Michigan – This season will be all about QB Denard Robinson who is one of the most dynamic players in college football – he could easily become this year’s RG3. The Wolverines might have one of the best teams in the Big 10, but they also have one of the toughest schedules with road games at Nebraska and Ohio St. along with opening the season this Saturday against Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. They will provide excitement, but a successful season in terms of a preseason top 10 ranking is looking to be doubtful.

#9 South Carolina – When Steve Spurrier was brought in as head coach in 2005, he was expected to turn a perennially mediocre program into a contender. (This is no small feat in the SEC.) While the Gamecocks made strides early on, they always seemed to be “almost there.” Then, last year, they hit two major milestones setting a school record with 11 wins and finishing in the season in the AP Top 10 for the first time in school history. If this team can use this momentum, they could have a very respectable season.

#10 Arkansas – Over just a few seasons, Bobby Petrino had instilled a confidence in his team that was lacking and had begun convincing fans that he would be able to bring the Hogs back to their former glory. With Petrino now gone, it will be up to the new head coach along with the players to focus on continuing the direction their program is headed. This is crucial if they want to have a chance at competing in a division which houses rivals Alabama and LSU.

 

Here are some match-ups to keep an eye out for this season:

September 1: Michigan @ Alabama

September 5: Alabama @ Arkansas

September 22: Florida St @ Clemson

October 6: Georgia @ South Carolina

November 3: USC @Oregon and Alabama @ LSU

November 23: LSU @ Arkansas

 

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Mizzou Football Preview 2012

26 08 2012

 

 

Guest Writer: Josh McSwain 

Week 1 – vs. Southeastern Louisiana

The Lions struggled last season after not playing football in 2010, finishing just 3-8 in 2011. Opening their 2012 campaign against the Missouri Tigers on the road does not bode well for them. Assuming James Franklin’s shoulder is back and ready to go, this should be nothing more than a run through for Missouri’s SEC schedule. Missouri wins 55-14. 

 

Week 2 – vs. Georgia

Mizzou plays their first ever SEC conference game at Faurot Field against the Dawgs. While the Dawgs won the SEC East last season with a solid 10-2 record, in six of their seven SEC wins they won by less than 10 points. And those wins weren’t even against top competition either – Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Mississippi State. Those teams were a combined 30-42 last season. Their lone SEC win by more than 10 was a 45-7 thrashing of 7-5 Auburn. Against teams with 10+ wins, Boise State, South Carolina, LSU and Michigan State, they were 0-4. On top of that, leading rusher Isaiah Crowell is gone. Mizzou has lost at home once over the last two seasons, which was against Oklahoma State last season. James Franklin struggled early on last season, but by the end of the year, he looked like he was on the verge of figuring things out. I expect him to have a huge year, with the help of T.J. Moe, Marcus Lucas, top recruit Dorial Green-Beckham and more at the WR position. The atmosphere for the first SEC game for the Tigers will be electric, and Missouri wins 28-24. 

 

Week 3 – vs. Arizona State

In James Franklin’s second start last season, the Tigers went to Tempe, fell behind the Osweiler led Sun Devils, but rallied to send the game into OT before eventually falling 37-30 in OT. Osweiler is gone, defensive leader Vontaze Burfinct is gone, and the Tigers are both more experienced and at home. I don’t expect this one to be close. Missouri wins 42-17. 

 

Week 4 – @South Carolina

Losing receiver Alshon Jeffery will hurt the Gamecock’s passing game, but the return of All-American caliber running back Marcus Lattimore gives their offense the boost it needs to compliment quarterback Connor Shaw. Defensively, Devon Taylor and Jadevon Clowney lead a terrifying pass rush for South Carolina. They will get in Franklin’s face all day long, disrupt the Tiger’s passing game, while Lattimore runs over the Mizzou defense, leading South Carolina to the first win in the battle of Columbias,  35-24. 

 

Week 5 – @Central Florida

A lot of folks will sleep on the Golden Knights because they were 5-7 last season; however, it can’t be forgotten that they were 5-1 at home, and won 11 games in 2010. This looks like a huge trap game for Mizzou, sandwiched between South Carolina and Vanderbilt. I think UCF will lead for the majority of this game, but James Franklin will pull off a fourth quarter comeback to save face and win the game for the Tigers, 31-28. 

 

Week 6 – vs. Vanderbilt

After two games away, Mizzou is happy to get back home again, hosting the Commodores, who are coming off a bowl last season. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin brings his improving squad to Columbia against a formidable opponent. Jordan Rodgers, brother of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, will lead a very good passing game against a Mizzou secondary that was exposed at times last season. I expect to see a good old fashioned shootout, with E.J. Gaines, Mizzou’s potential all-SEC corner, making a big play at the end to seal a 34-27 win for Mizzou.

 

Week 7 – vs. Alabama

Well, this may be the most interesting game of the season for Mizzou or the least interesting. The champions of the Bull Crap System come to Columbia in a game that might present danger for the Tide. The Tigers are tough at home, and Alabama lost a lot of talent from the defensive side of the ball. Against James Franklin and Missouri’s high flying offense, Mizzou has at least a chance. But in the end, Eddie Lacy and the Tide’s running game will be too much for the Tigers and Alabama wins, 31-21, with a score late to seal it. 

 

Week 8 – BYE

 

Week 9 – vs. Kentucky (Homecoming)

The 101st Homecoming in a new conference. This game may have an even more electric atmosphere than the Alabama game, or even the 100th Homecoming. While Kentucky had a decent defense last season, they struggled to put up points, ranking 114th out of 120 teams in college football. They are going to need to put up points in order to stay with Mizzou in Columbia. This one figures to be a blowout. Mizzou wins 45-16. 

 

Week 10 – @Florida

Heading to The Swamp is no easy task. Even if Tebow isn’t at QB for the Gators. The Gators struggled to score points last season, averaging only 25.5 ppg – 71st in the country. Factor in a new QB, no Jeff Demps and no Chris Rainey. But the Gators have a very good D, which returns almost all their starters from last season. While Mizzou has had a good season up to this point, fatigue will start to settle in, and on the road, against a tough opponent, the Tigers won’t have enough. Florida wins 24-17. 

 

Week 11 – @Tennessee

Tennessee – a once storied program that hasn’t won 10 or more games since 2007. Derek Dooley has been very mediocre since taking over for Lane Kiffin at Rocky Top in 2010, compiling an 11-14 record in two seasons. Tyler Bray is a very skilled quarterback, but has been unable to stay healthy. Like Florida, they struggled to score points last season, ranking 106th in the nation. But, a formidable defense gives them hope. They ranked 36th in the nation in points allowed. At Rocky Top, I think Tennessee pulls out a game that could go either way, 24-21. 

 

Week 12 – vs. Syracuse

After dropping two straight road games, Mizzou comes home against the last team that they have scheduled for the season, the Orange. Ryan Nassib may be an all-Big East QB, but he will look overmatched in this one. James Franklin will have a huge day, particularly since he won’t have Chandler Jones, the former Syracuse pass rushing terror, breathing down his neck. Missouri wins 38-17. 

 

Week 13 – @Texas A&M

Making a third straight trip to College Station is not what it used to be. Texas A&M has been up and down for the last decade. Mizzou has won both match-ups the last two years, winning convincingly in 2010 with Blaine Gabbert at the helm, and pulling out an OT nail biter last season. Now, Tannehill, Jeff Fuller and Cyrus Gray are all gone, as is coach Mike Sherman. Missouri was the better team in 2010, Texas A&M had the better team in 2011, and Missouri has the better team this season. No reason why the Tigers shouldn’t pull off the three game sweep as long as all Mizzou’s key players are healthy. Mizzou wins 38-13. 

 

Record: 8-4

 

 

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Crimson Tide Roll Over Meowing Tigers

10 01 2012

LSU quarterback Jefferson is stripped of the ball by Alabama's Hightower during the second half of the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans

In one of the biggest rematches (not National Championships) in college football history, the only thing big about this game turned out to be the distance between the goal posts for Jeremy Shelley.

The Alabama Crimson Tide dominated the LSU Tigers, 21-0 in the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship. No other team in the BCS era has ended up with 0 points by the time the title game came to a close.

Haunted by a loss to LSU earlier in the season when a made field goal would have brought Alabama a victory, Jeremy Shelley had plenty to be worried about going into this game. However, he put the past behind him, providing his team with 15 points with his leg. Even though it felt more like fútbol than football, it was enough to hold off LSU.

Trent Richardson acted as the warhorse for Alabama up to this point in the season. Even though Richardson still had 96 yards and the only touchdown of the game in trash time, Nick Saban used the 5-11 running back as a distraction to allow AJ McCarron to play a major role in their victory. With many play-action plays being called on first down, McCarron connected on 23 of 34 passes and collected 234 yards through the air. He made Tyrann Mathieu look like a joke as a Heisman candidate. As he has done all season long, he did what his coach needed him to do, bringing Alabama another W and another championship.

This stands as only the fifth time all season McCarron passed for over 200 yards, bolstering Saban’s effective coaching. It is no coincidence than he now stands as the only coach in the BCS era to win three BCS National Championship.

No matter whether you believe it is entertaining to see a kicking contest take place with conservative plays being called, it can’t be denied that Alabama played the game they wanted to play tonight. By means of their strong defensive play, productive special teams, and efficient offense, they didn’t sparkle in the Superdome, but they did what they had to do in order to achieve a title.

On the defensive side of the field, the Crimson Tide did indeed stifle every aspect of the Tigers offense – including the praised option play. LSU finished the game with 92 total yards and 5 first downs – another all-time low in the BCS era. They crossed midfield for the first time all night towards the end of the game but ended up fumbling the ball away on 4th down. All the field goals being kicked by Alabama seemed to tempt LSU fans that they would eventually get it going for a couple touchdowns to get right back in the game, but they just couldn’t put together enough plays to do so.

Obviously, this Alabama defense must be given credit as one of the most dominant forces the entire season. Should it be considered as one of the best all-time after this performance?

When you look at how LSU played on offense, some of Alabama’s ridiculous defensive statistics have to be tarnished. It was that bad. Jordan Jefferson looked horrid, with his cute shovel pass intended for Spencer Ware being easily intercepted by C.J. Mosley epitomizing his embarrassing performance. There isn’t a possible way to go too hard on this offense as they came out flatter than the Dallas Cowboys in a clutch game. Since LSU’s offense caused so much self-inflicted harm, I just can’t proclaim this defense as the best ever – especially since it would be irrational to make that statement pertaining to the team most recently seen on the television (sorry Kirk, I can’t use superlatives so easily).

Top 5 AP Poll:

#1 – Alabama

#2 – LSU

#3 – Oklahoma State

#4 – Oregon

#5 – Arkansas

When the résumés of Alabama (12-1), LSU (13-1), and Oklahoma State (12-1) are put next to each another, should the Cowboys have stood as #1 or #2 in the AP Polls? I won’t go as far as to put them on top, but being in the discussion for the #2 position should have taken place. Simply because LSU and Alabama play a more defensive style of football shouldn’t take away from Oklahoma State’s dominant season. The Cowboys took down Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and finally Stanford in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. I understand they lost to a subpar Iowa State team, but isn’t that just as bad as putting up a goose egg in the biggest bowl game of them all?

This year, college football provided entertainment for both offensive and defensive fans. Both are important to the game, and even though defense does indeed win championships, a game can’t be won with no points. Alabama, who relied solely on defense most of the year, dominated all three major aspects to the game – offense, defense, and special teams. What a performance to match their championship in 2010. They made it official that the hunter has more success than the hunted, poaching the Tigers in their own habitat. Easily.

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Fun Fact Friday

6 01 2012

Since the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship game consists of two SEC teams (LSU and Alabama) on Monday night, this will be the sixth straight SEC team to win the national championship. Both of these teams have won during this streak, LSU winning in 2007, and Alabama winning in 2009. After scoring a combined 15 points in their first match-up, LSU and Alabama will surely provide a different type of game than the other four BCS Bowl games that have averaged a combined 77 points per game.

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College Catch-Up

27 11 2011

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday featured many storylines and many heated rivalries.

(#3) Arkansas 17, (#1) LSU 41: The Razorbacks kept this game close through 3 quarters, but LSU took control in the end and look to be headed to the title game. In fact, they are so far ahead in the polls and computers, they could lose to Georgia next week, and still remain #1 or #2 in the BCS.

(#2) Alabama 42, Auburn 14: Alabama leads the country in most defensive categories, and they showed it this year’s Iron Bowl. Auburn tried to keep it close, but the Crimson Tide ended up dominating the Tigers and seem very likely headed to the title game.

(#13) Georgia 31, (#25) Georgia Tech 17: Georgia has won 10 in a row after dropping their first 2, and now they will play top ranked LSU in the SEC championship game.

(#22) Notre Dame 14, (#4) Stanford 28: Andrew Luck had a pretty good day throwing for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns, but now it’s up to the voters to determine his Heisman fate.   

UCLA 0, (#10) USC 50: Matt Barkley threw for 6 touchdowns as the Trojans dominated the Bruins in every aspect of this game. However, due to NCAA sanctions, UCLA (now 6-6) is actually playing in the PAC-12 title game next week against Oregon while USC’s season is over.

Ohio State 34, (#17) Michigan 40: With both teams undergoing serious changes in their programs, this game still didn’t disappoint. Michigan won for the first time since 2003 and Ohio State will finish the season with a non-winning record for the first time since 1999.

Texas 27, Texas A&M 25: These two rivals played the final game between them (for now) as A&M heads to the SEC next season. The Aggies were in control, but they were outscored 17-0 in the third quarter and ended up losing on a last second field goal.

(#8) Houston 48, Tulsa 16: Houston joins LSU as the only other FBS team in the country without a loss this season. If they win the Conference USA championship game next week, they should be assured a BCS bowl game.

Maryland 41, North Carolina State 56: In a game which meant nothing in the ACC Championship race, NC State trailed 41-14 in the third quarter, but went on to score 35 unanswered points and came up with the biggest comeback in school history.

Illinois 7, Minnesota 27: Finally, on Saturday, the Illini capped off one of the biggest collapses in the country. They began the year at 6-0, but finished the season an improbable 0-6, and on Sunday, coach Ron Zook was fired.

Tennessee 7, Kentucky 10: The Wildcats snapped one of the longest streaks in the country beating their SEC rival for the first time since 1984.

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College Catch-Up

6 11 2011

 

(#1) LSU 9,  (#2) Alabama 6 (OT)

The “game of the year” came down to a defensive struggle with the Tigers coming out on top of a game where neither team could find the end zone. While the defenses were stellar, both teams had their troubles on offense. After throwing 1 interception all season, LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee threw 2 on Saturday, which set up both of Alabama’s field goals. On the other hand, Alabama kickers missed 4 field goals, including one in overtime, which ended up sealing the Crimson Tide’s fate. LSU is set up nicely to go to the title game, but they should be careful. They still must play Arkansas and then the SEC West champ in the conference championship.

 

(#17) Kansas State 45,  (#3) Oklahoma State 52

As the SEC slugfest was happening on CBS, viewers could flip over to ABC to see the complete opposite happening in Stillwater. These two teams went back and forth all night, and OSU held KSU out of the end zone in the final seconds to come away with a victory. With all that offense, it’s no surprise that Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weedon set a school record with 502 passing yards. OSU will probably be ranked #2 in the BCS and control their own destiny with a shot to get into the title game. The December 3rd game against the Sooners might end up being the most important game in that school’s history.

 

Northwestern 28,  (#9) Nebraska 25

After a dominating victory over Michigan State last week, the Huskers lost to unranked Northwestern at home on Saturday. Nebraska is at its best when it can run the ball, but on Saturday they were held to a season low 122 rushing yards. On the other hand, the Wildcats still have a good shot at becoming bowl eligible for the fifth season in a row at a school not traditionally known for its football program. This is one of those games that nobody saw coming, and it makes things a lot more interesting in the Big Ten as Nebraska is now tied with Iowa and Michigan for second place in their division.

 

(#10) South Carolina 28, (#8) Arkansas 44

These two SEC teams came in with identical 7-1 records, both still eyeing a possible conference championship. However, because of stifling defense and capitalization off of turnovers, Arkansas showed LSU they better not be taking their last game of the season lightly. Arkansas wide receiver Jarius Wright continued his stellar senior season with 103 receiving yards on only 4 receptions along with two touchdowns. At this point in the season, Arkansas is 8th in the FBS in passing yards and LSU is 102nd. Regarding points against, Arkansas is 40th and LSU is 2nd. This will surely be another classic SEC battle.

 

Notes:

After a terrible start of the season, Georgia is now leading the SEC East and has the inside track to the SEC championship game.

Case Keenum finished Saturday’s drubbing of UAB with an NCAA career record 17,212 passing yards.

In Texas A&M’s 4 losses this season, they have been outscored 59-0 in the third quarters of those games.

The USA/Coaches Poll just came out, and those pollsters have decided to only drop Alabama to 4th (ahead of undefeated Boise State).

 

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