photo via University of Alabama Media Relations
For the fourth time in as many weeks, Alabama topped the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 poll, the Association announced on Tuesday. The Crimson Tide is off to a 25-0 start this season and received 28 of the 30 first-place votes this week. Despite suffering its first loss of the season at the hands of then No. 18 Hawai‘i (24-2), California picked up the remaining two first-place votes and remained at No. 2 in the latest poll. The rest of the top five also remained unchanged as Washington (27-1), Florida (26-2) and Arizona St. (28-3) held tight at third through fifth, respectively.
SCOUTING TENNESSEE: Tennessee enters the matchup with a 19-6 record overall, 3-3 mark in SEC play. The Lady Vols won two out of three games this past weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark. UT knocked off Arkansas, 8-0, in five innings in game one, but suffered a 4-1 setback in their second game. On Sunday, the Lady Vols bounced back to win the rubber match, 2-0. Tennessee is led by junior outfielder/third baseman Raven Chavanne with a .464 (26-for-56) batting average and a perfect 10-for-10 clip in stolen bases. Sophomore infielder Madison Shipman leads the team with 26 runs batted in to go along with her .357 (30-for-84) batting average, while junior infielder Lauren Gibson leads the Lady Vols with eight home runs and 22 RBI. In the circle, UT is led by the Renfroe sisters. Sophomore Ellen Renfroe was named SEC Freshman of the Year last season, and has continued that success this year. She enters the weekend with a 14-1 record and a 0.99 ERA, with an SEC leading 152 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings of work. Junior Ivy Renfroe enters the series with a 5-5 record with 54 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings of work. UT returned 15 letter-winners from last season's SEC Tournament championship team. They are led by co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly, who have coached at UT for 12 seasons and have posted a 533-168-2 record in Knoxville.
Jim McElwain's successor as Alabama's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach is wasting no time in getting to know the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback. You've heard of speed dating? This apparently is speed coaching. "I love him," AJ McCarron said of Doug Nussmeier. "He's a real personal coach. He's just like Coach Mac to me. We don't only have a relationship on the field, but we talk to each other on the weekends." You've heard of speed dialing? "If he gets bored, he likes to call me," McCarron said of the former Washington offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "I found that out, and we'll just talk."
"I think it goes to show how much leadership and character the entire family has," said UA coach Nick Saban. "Certainly the two young men we have here in our program, that they would be so giving of themselves to go serve others, which they've done on a consistent basis. I think it speaks volumes for who they are and what they're all about. They're as fine a young men as you're ever going to be around."
Former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who was hired at Ohio State: "Oh no, I think the SEC’s speed is legit. And I can tell you for sure after next year. I haven’t had enough experience yet in the Big Ten. Certainly, the defensive front seven is at a different level in the SEC. We went and recruited a bunch of good guys for our front seven this year for Ohio State, so I hope we can catch the SEC."
We have seen the new NCAA, everyone—and there’s nothing refreshing or redeeming about it. That’s either really good news for Miami and Oregon, or really bad news—depending on how each university plays ball with its current NCAA investigations. Forget about right or wrong or fair or unfair when it comes to USC and its now legendary haircut from the NCAA a few years back. All that matters is this: Six weeks ago, USC gave away 10 elite players to its competition on National Signing Day. You want to hurt teams that cheat? Hit them where it matters most: scholarships.
Former Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans will be playing in Philadelphia next fall after six years in Houston. The 27-year-old team captain and two time pro-bowler leaves as the Texans all-time leader with 637 tackles while also contributing eight sacks, six forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and two interceptions in his six-year career.
The battle for the Georgia running back job just lost one of its most veteran participants. Carlton Thomas has decided not to return for his senior season. The announcement came prior to the Bulldogs' first practice of the spring on Tuesday. "This decision was based solely on the fact that this is my last year to play, and my parents and I felt like it was the right move to make," Thomas said in a statement. "I want to make more of an impact on the field. I didn't want to disrupt Georgia's team and preparation for next season, so I made the final decision to leave earlier rather than later in the year." (ed.- poor kid. Obviously he means "I got cut 'cause of oversigning." 'Cause that's the only reason kids ever transfer.)
Josh Luchs, a former agent who spent about half of his career breaking all those NCAA rules against paying players, has an idea to help the problem. In his new book, Illegal Procedure: A Sports Agent Comes Clean On The Dirty Business Of College Football, Luchs offers a humble suggestion that would solve many of the issues that cause so much frustration for the NCAA's enforcement staff. Naturally, NCAA member schools will never take Luchs' advice, because it makes too much sense.
I'm of the opinion that the process should be simplified — take the top four teams in the BCS standings. Who wouldn't have wanted to see LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford square off in a plus-one format? That would have been exciting and good for the game. Did anyone else have a legitimate claim to the national title? No. So let those teams duke it out and allow the fans to enjoy an extra week of competition. And if folks are worried about a bias in those standings, start all of the rankings in October. Do away with preseason hype and base the rankings on what is happening on the field. This isn't rocket science. The pieces for a fair system are in place, the college football powers that be just need to be willing to put them together in a way that makes sense and gives the best teams — not the best team per conference — a chance to be a national champion.
Jelks is bitter, and there's little room for reason in that. The fact that Curry's decision propelled him to the NFL as a defensive back is totally dismissed. He is obsessed with the day he sat down in Curry's office and had the ball ripped from his hands. As Goode puts it, no player leaves the game willingly. In Jelks' circumstance, he became absorbed with it, so sure he would have had a long career in the pros as a running back had it not been for Curry. "There was no question he was consumed by football," Goode said. "That was his dream, his only dream from the day he left Emma Sansom High School to the day he left Alabama. He had no other priority, no other nothing. That's what he focused on."